Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Short Communication

Pain facial expression: Individual variability undermines the specific adaptationist account

Christine R. Harris a1 and Nancy Alvarado a1
a1 Center for Brain and Cognition, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0109


The proposal that there are specific adaptations for the expression and detection of pain appears premature on both conceptual and empirical grounds. We discuss criteria for the validation of a pain facial expression. We also describe recent findings from our lab on coping styles and pain expression, which illustrate the importance of considering individual differences when proposing evolutionary explanations.