What are operant learning and social learning, and how do these models of behavior relate to pain?
Operant learning in pain management is based on the idea that pain behaviors arise along with a pain condition, and these presentations can be altered, as they are reinforced by environmental influences. The person in pain will act in pain; these actions represent a distinct domain from the actual pain condition. The patient learns how to be in pain and can therefore learn how to not be in as much pain. Operant conditioning as a therapy is a method designed to increase a pain patient’s awareness of how their pain causes them to behave. Social learning is a theory that is based on the idea that social contexts can increase or decrease the perception of pain due to the reinforcement of interpersonal and social influences. The treatment method is directed at increasing the patient’s awareness of these processes. Both of these models rely upon conscious awareness of pain perception and control of the outcome of behaviors related to this perception.