Busting Pain Tolerance

Years ago, Mythbusters explored pain tolerance. First off, women proved to have a higher pain tolerance than men. Secondly, women who had given birth without painkillers had the highest pain threshold of all. 

I think this is a very interesting result, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Why? Because the nature of the test assumes that everyone perceives time at the same rate. If that is true, you have a valid test. But we that is not true. The way we perceive time is based on a wide array of stresses, and changes throughout the day. So their experiment measured two things:

  1. The individual’s pain threshold
  2. The individual’s time perception

The slower time passes for any given individual, the longer it will feel like they have been subjected to the pain. And the opposite is also true: the faster time passes for any individual, the shorter will feel like they have been subjected to any pain. So two people with the exact same pain tolerances in different mental states would have very different results in this experiment.