If you’re planning on doing something that you know will cause you a lot of pain (maybe a tattoo or a waxing), it might be better to play a few minutes of Call of Duty than to take a couple shots of tequila.
According to a study from Keele University, playing just ten minutes of a violent video game can significantly increase your pain tolerance. The U.K. school tested volunteers’ ability to tolerate pain using an ice water pain challenge, both after playing violent video games and not playing violent video games.
According to Keele, participants’ pain tolerance increased by a whopping 65% (meaning they could keep their hands submerged in the ice water for 65% longer) after playing the violent games.
From the study:
The study of 40 volunteers found that playing violent ‘first person shooter’ games, in which a player kills enemies in a virtual environment, enabled participants to tolerate an ice water pain challenge for longer than if they had played a non-violent golf game.
Participants played both the violent and non-violent game on separate occasions for 10 minutes and then placed one of their hands in ice-cold water to test their reaction to pain. On average, participants kept their hands in the icy water for 65 per cent longer after playing the violent game, indicating that playing the game increased the participants’ pain tolerance. Heart rate was also shown to increase.
Why does this help people cope with pain? According to Dr. Richard Stephens, it’s all about flipping to switch on our fight-or-flight response which can inhibit our sensitivity to pain.
“We assumed that swearing eases pain by sparking an emotional reaction in participants – most likely to be aggression – in turn setting off the body’s fight or flight response. This latest study was a test of that assumption in which we set out to try and raise participants’ aggression levels by having them play a violent video game. We then tested the effect on pain tolerance. The results confirm our predictions that playing the video game increased both feelings of aggression and pain tolerance,” said Stephens.
In that swearing study that he mentions, subjects were subjected to an ice water pain test as well. It found that swearing did increase the amount of time people could keep their hands submerged, but it only really worked if the subject was not a frequent swearer.
I guess blowing off some heads may help you keep yours in a painful situation.