Despite its unpleasantness, pain may actually have positive social consequences, acting as a sort of "social glue" that fosters cohesion and solidarity within groups, says a study.
"Our findings show that pain is a particularly powerful ingredient in producing bonding and cooperation between those who share painful experiences," said lead researcher Brock Bastian from the University of New South Wales in Australia.
"The findings shed light on why camaraderie may develop between soldiers or others who share difficult and painful experiences," Bastian explained.
The study involved a series of experiments with under-graduate students. The students who performed the painful tasks and those who performed the painless tasks showed no difference in positive or negative emotion.
They did, however, show significant differences in group bonding. Students who performed the painful tasks reported a greater degree of bonding than did those who performed the pain-free versions.
Shared pain not only increases a sense of solidarity, it can also boost actual group cooperation, the findings showed.
The researchers point out that the groups, created by random assignment, did not reflect any sort of shared identity other than their task-related experiences.
The study appeared in the journal Psychological Science.