This New York Times article is a portrait of the work of a London psychologist who has designed elegant studies to correlate objective measures of pain with subjects’ subjective experience. While most coverage of his work I have read focuses on the (admittedly interesting) observation that people are willing to accept more pain inflicted by women than by men, the broader finding, which makes intuitive sense, is that people experience pain as less intense if they experience more sense of control either in choosing it or in their lives in general. I have noticed in my psychiatric work that chronic pain complaints in severely mentally ill patients correlate with their sense of control. For example, paranoid patients who feel controlled by others will often have chronic pain conditions such as lower back pain or irritable bowel syndrome, while grandiose patients rarely do. [My observation, of course, is unscientific, since it may just be that they do not divulge their complaints as much…] The article quite rightly observes that a medical profession which keeps its knowledge esoteric and does not share it with the patients subject to it, and clinical environments that emphasize the patients’ lack of control over their fate, do little to assuage the patient’s pain experience.