Cognitive Dissonance Found to Increase Loads on the Low Back and Neck

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Back Pain

A new study the SRI team recently published found that the mental distress of cognitive dissonance – encountering information that conflicts with how we act or what we believe – can lead to added pressure on the neck and low back during lifting and lowering tasks.

In this study, participants performed a precision lowering experiment in the SRI lab.  Researchers gave positive feedback during the block of data collection.  However, during the second block, their feedback to subjects grew increasingly  negative, suggesting they were performing the task in an unsatisfactory way. 

A cognitive dissonance score was developed from blood pressure and heart rate variability measures, along with subjective responses to questionnaires that assessed discomfort levels and reports of positivity and negativity. 

Results showed that the higher the cognitive dissonance score, the greater the extent of loading on the upper and lower parts of the spine.  This finding suggests cognitive dissonance may be a previously unidentified risk factor for neck and low back pain, which could have implications for risk prevention in the workplace. 

The research was published recently in the journal Ergonomics

Dr. William Marras, Executive Director of the SRI, interpreted these findings in this way: “We’re trying to unravel this onion and understand all the different things that affect spine disorders because it’s really, really complex,” he said. “Just like the whole system has got to be right for a car to run correctly, we’re learning that that’s the way it is with the spine. You could be in physically great shape, but if you’re not thinking correctly or appropriately, or you have all these mental irregularities, like cognitive dissonance, that will affect the system. And until you get that right, you’re not going to be right."

This news was adapted from an article written by Emily Caldwell.