One criterion of pain experience is that the emotional response to pain may be traded-off against other motivational requirements. This was tested in hermit crabs, housed in either preferred or unpreferred species of shells, by subjecting their abdomens to electric shocks of gradually increasing intensity. The first observable response was not affected by shell species but those in preferred shells evacuated at a higher shock level than those in poor quality shells. Thus, they seem to trade-off the requirement to retain a high quality shell with that of avoidance of the noxious stimulus. Some crabs returned to their shells and those that got back into the preferred species did so with less probing of the aperture before getting in and subsequently thrust their abdomen in and out less often in further investigation, thus confirming their shell species preference. Not all crabs returned to the vicinity of the shell and some attempted to climb the wall of the experimental chamber. Others engaged in shell rapping as if in a fight and grooming of the abdomen was noted. These findings are consistent with the idea of a pain experience rather than a nociceptive reflex.