We found that despite the exceptional physical and emotional experiences of childbirth, the memory of the pain involved in labor was biased toward the average of the peak pain and the end pain, whereas the duration of the delivery had a relatively negligible effect on the recollected intensity of pain.... [Our analysis] corroborated previous findings that the level of pain toward the end of an experience greatly influences the way the overall experience is remembered.The study was picked up by science journalism clearinghouse EurekAlert, who glossed it quite reasonably thus:
Memories of pain during childbirth tied to intensity rather than length of laborEurekAlert also explains the theory underpinning the experiment:
Childbirth is physically intense and, for many women, it is the most painful experience they will have. And yet, new research shows that the amount of time a woman spends in labor doesn't seem to impact how she remembers her labor pain afterwards.
The idea that we tend to remember an experience as a joint product of peak point and end point of the experience while ignoring all other parts is well known to researchers, dubbed the "peak-end bias," but it has primarily been tested in lab settings using relatively brief experiments. Thus, it remained unclear as to whether the peak-end bias would apply to real life events.So, there you have it. A couple of psychologists found a clever way to test in a real-life situation a phenomenon that has frequently been observed in lab tests.
Say, how did the press pick this up, anyway?
Study says child birth pain not as painful as women claimThat's right, folks. The take-home for the (male?) junior staff writer whose (female?) editor handed him the science beat this week was: why bitches always gotsta be complainin', man?
Okay, junior staff writer. Let's see how else you can completely botch this.
The researchers then called the moms twice, two days after birth and again two months later... The results show the women rated the process less painful two days after their delivery than they did when the researchers asked them again two months later.PEOPLE. Not "moms." PEOPLE. If a dude gets kicked eight times and one of those times happens to be in the nuts, he'll probably remember the whole experience as pretty freakin' painful. You'd never tell him he was probably recalling it as worse than it was. Jesus. If you'll permit a moment of angry feminist ranting, this is pure patriarchal devaluing-the-experiences-of-women bullshit.
According to the researchers, they conclude that moms are likely to forget all the points during labor that aren't quite as painful and just focus on the moments that were the most painful.
It's also, maybe, a case of an idiot being put in charge of science writing, because...
The reason for the study? To determine if an epidural is helpful for moms.