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The tenability of an exclusively “medical model” explanation of pain is called into question. The pain experience is a “mediated” one; the brain regulates the pain experience through its electrochemical activities and attentiveness to pain stimuli. The latter is largely the result of conditioning processes, many of which are related to ethno-cultural attitudes. Zborowski found differential pain responses among American patients of Yankee, Italian and Jewish ancestry. Sternbach and Tursky discovered differing reactions to electric shock among American housewives of Yankee, Irish, Italian and Jewish ancestry. Chapman and Jones studied the pain responses of American negroes, and Caucasian Americans of Northern European, Italian, and Russian Jewish ancestry and concluded that differences in pain sensitivity and reaction exist which are related to ethno-cultural origins. These ethno-cultural differences are discussed and some speculative explanations are offered. The implications of these observations for hospital staff, particularly nurses, are examined and some specific remedies for related problems are presented.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 1982

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