Unpacking an affordance-based model of chronic pain: a video game analogy

Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences:1-24 (forthcoming)
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Chronic pain is one of the most disabling medical conditions globally, yet, to date, we lack a satisfying theoretical framework for research and clinical practice. Over the prior decades, several frameworks have been presented with biopsychosocial models as the most promising. However, in translation to clinical practice, these models are often applied in an overly reductionist manner, leaving much to be desired. In particular, they often fail to characterize the complexities and dynamics of the lived experience of chronic pain. Recently, an enactive, affordance-based approach has been proposed, opening up new ways to view chronic pain. This model characterizes how the persistence of pain alters a person’s field of affordances: the unfolding set of action possibilities that a person perceives as available to them. The affordance-based model provides a promising perspective on chronic pain as it allows for a systematic investigation of the interactive relation between patients and their environment, including characteristic alterations in the experience of their bodies and the space they inhabit. To help bridge the gap from philosophy to clinical practice, we unpack in this paper the core concepts of an affordance-based approach to chronic pain and their clinical implications, highlighting aspects that have so far received insufficient attention. We do so with an analogy to playing video games, as we consider such comparative illustration a useful tool to convey the complex concepts in an affordance-based model and further explore central aspects of the lived experience of chronic pain.



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Author Profiles

Sabrina Coninx
VU University Amsterdam
Peter Stilwell
McGill University
B. Michael Ray
Bridgewater College

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