Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Mitchell E. Berman

Committee Member

Mitchell E. Berman

Committee Member

Kevin J. Armstrong

Committee Member

Michael S. McCloskey

Committee Member

Michael R. Nadorff

Date of Degree


Original embargo terms


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Applied Psychology with Clinical Concentration

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Psychology


There is a growing literature supporting the idea that those who engage in non-suicidal deliberate self-harm (DSH) have altered pain perception compared to individuals who do not. For example, individuals who report a history of non-suicidal DSH behavior have a decreased sensitivity to transient pain during laboratory-based pain induction (e.g., Glenn et al., 2014). Research suggests that brief manipulations targeting individual beliefs can affect performance on subsequent tasks, including measures of pain sensitivity. To date, however, no study has examined the effects of experimentally manipulated pain perception on DSH behavior. The Self-Aggression Paradigm (SAP: Berman & Walley, 2003; McCloskey & Berman, 2003) allows for the prospective observation of the effects of experimental manipulations on a laboratory analogue of DSH. Therefore, the aim of the current study was to determine if experimentally manipulated false feedback about pain tolerance affects DSH behavior during the SAP, thus potentially providing evidence for a causal linkage between pain perception and DSH. Eighty participants were randomly assigned to one of three feedback groups: High pain tolerance, low pain tolerance, and a control condition with neutral feedback provided after completing the SAP. Participants were provided false feedback regarding their pain tolerance after a pressure algometer task. It was predicted that participants in the high pain tolerance feedback groupwould have the highest DSH on the SAP, with DSH defined as the level of shock self-administered during a series of reaction-time trials. No significant group differences, however, emerged based on group assignment. Men engaged in more DSH than women during the study independent of feedback group assignment. A secondary aim of the current study was to provide further validation for the SAP using multiple pain induction modalities. Implications of the current findings and future research directions are discussed.