Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Psychology

First Advisor

Rebekah E. Smith

Second Advisor

Todd A. Smitherman

Third Advisor

Reed R. Hunt

Relational Format



Chronic pain is among the most widespread and disabling conditions worldwide. In the United States, approximately 50 million people suffer from chronic pain, and nearly half that number experience daily chronic pain. Diagnostic testing, treatments, and operations related to chronic pain cost Americans over $600 billion annually. Prospective memory, the process by which people remember to perform an action in the future after a delay, appears to be affected by the experience of pain, especially when a prospective memory task is more cognitively demanding. While self-report studies of individuals with chronic pain suggest that pain adversely affects both their retrospective and prospective memory, there is scant literature investigating this relationship with more objective methods. Similarly, few studies have been conducted that examine the role of subjective ratings of sleep on prospective memory performance. The current study administered an online prospective memory task paradigm to participants with and without chronic pain to address whether prospective memory performance differs by pain status. The sample consisted of 188 adults residing in the United States with a mean age of 31.16 years (SE = .65). Of these, 95 participants were coded as being in the pain group, and 93 were coded as being in the no-pain group. The pain group performed significantly poorer on the prospective memory task and exhibited significantly worse sleep functioning scores than the no-pain group. However, sleep functioning neither significantly mediated nor moderated the relationship between pain group status and prospective memory performance. These findings suggest that chronic pain is associated with impairments in prospective memory and poorer sleep functioning, although further experimental research is necessary to establish causal relationships between pain and prospective memory.



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