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The corkboard in your mind. What do YOU think about pain?

By Noigroup HQ Science and the world 03 Feb 2022

Brian Pulling is a PhD candidate at the University of South Australia studying how your unique attitudes about arthritis, physical activity, and exercise, can lead to more useful treatments. We welcome Brian to Noijam and encourage you to participate in his research into osteoarthritis – the second most common cause of persistent pain.


Imagine a cork bulletin board hanging on your wall. Everything you put up on this board will be about one thing, and one thing only. I’ll be the example.

You may already know some things about me, like that I am the author of this blog, so perhaps you put a printout of the blog on the board. If you looked around on the internet, you could put my photo up, or maybe a copy of my dissertation – the title alone will take up some space on the board for sure! Now you have an idea about who I am, with fun facts and stories, pictures, and an ill-fated podcast (if you look hard enough).

Researchers call this metaphorical corkboard and everything on it, a conceptual framework. The many ways that this framework may change over time as we learn new information is called conceptual change.

We all have conceptual frameworks about a huge variety of topics, and this research is focusing on one that is shockingly common and can be terribly burdensome: osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is complex and can affect people in many ways. Osteoarthritis can affect all joints, but often the knees and hips.

Whether or not you’ve given it much thought, we all have a conceptual framework about osteoarthritis, even if it’s quite simple. For many people this will be based on personal experience with joint pain (be that your own joint, a friend, or family member).

So why do we want to know what you think?

It’s no stretch to say that we need better treatments, but the story doesn’t end there.

To determine what treatments work best, we need assessment tools. Health assessments take many forms. You’ve probably filled out a survey at a doctors’ office or been asked to rate your pain from 0-10. These are both tools that researchers use to improve treatments.

Our research aims to develop tools that assess conceptual frameworks about knee osteoarthritis and physical activity.

Click the image below to see the survey:

We are developing these tools!

First, we start with a survey, the type you’re probably familiar with already – researchers call this an explicit assessment (you tell us what you think). This is followed up with an Implicit Association Test or IAT. This is different because it gets at what people think unconsciously. The combination of explicit and implicit assessments can give researchers a better overall picture of your unique conceptual framework.

Developing new assessments is a long process. Phase one starts with conversations with experts in research and healthcare, and long interviews with people who have pain. We’re currently in Phase two, where we share the assessments with the world. Once we have enough data, we can use statistical tests to see how the assessments work. In the future, we hope these assessments will be useful to clinicians treating osteoarthritis.

The survey takes about 30 minutes and is open to people with AND without pain. The survey works best on a physical computer (not a mobile or tablet). If you’d like to participate in the study, click HERE for more information.


Brian W. Pulling
Body in Mind Research Group
IIMPACT In Health, Allied health & Human Performance
University of South Australia

For updates on this research, follow Brian on twitter @brianpulling or email him at



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