The Effect of Disability Claimants' Coping Styles on Judgements of Pain, Disability and Compensation: a Vignette Study

Document Type

Journal Article


American Psychological Association


Faculty of Business and Public Management


School of Justice and Business Law




MacLeod, F. K., LaChapelle, D. L., Hadjistavropoulos, T., & Pfeifer, J. E. (2001). The effect of disability claimants' coping styles on judgments of pain, disability, and compensation: A vignette study. Rehabilitation Psychology, 46(4), 417.


Context: Because insurance adjusters' decisions about whether to grant compensation to disability claimants are often based on subjective criteria, such decisions may be susceptible to the influence of factors irrelevant to the claimant's disabling condition. Objective: To examine whether judgments about compensation claimants are affected by the claimants' way of coping with pain and by claimant sex. Participants: Two hundred undergraduate students. Study Design: Participants made judgments about vignettes describing fictitious compensation claimants with differing strategies of coping with pain. The main analytic approach involved a multivariate analysis of variance with 5 within-subjects factors (i.e., coping style described in each of 5 vignettes) and 2 between-subjects factors (i.e., sex of claimant described in the vignettes).Results: Coping style was significantly related to perceptions of pain severity and disability and to beliefs about whether compensation should be awarded. Claimants who were described as engaging in catastrophizing or in praying and hoping were more likely than other claimants to be perceived as disabled and as deserving compensation for their injuries. Conclusions: Decisions about disability compensation could be influenced by claimant coping styles. The subjective nature of such judgments, in combination with findings from this study, underscores the importance of creating objective guidelines for insurance adjusters.

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