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Working mechanisms of expressive writing : focusing on the linguistic indicators pronouns, tense, and emotion words

Friedel, L.K. (2012) Working mechanisms of expressive writing : focusing on the linguistic indicators pronouns, tense, and emotion words.

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Abstract:Depression is a major problem in today’s society. The symptoms not only cause tremendous individual suffering, but also huge economical costs (e.g. therapy, work-absenteeism). In order to reduce the immense aftermath on different levels and to nip initiating symptoms in a bud, scientific interest to develop preventive interventions grew. Researchers of the University of Twente (2011) developed an expressive writing intervention based on the method of Pennebaker (1997). Since the effect of the intervention has already been shown, the current study tried to explore the underlying working mechanisms. Can a change in the respondents writing style explain the gains in positive mental health and the reduction of depressive symptoms? Is there a typical style of writing that is beneficial? Answering these questions might shed a little more light into the dark terrain of the working mechanisms and might allow suggestions to improve the intervention. The focus in the current study was on the following linguistic indicators: the first person pronoun “I”, the tense used in the essays, and positive and negative emotions. To get an answer, cross-sectional data of 33 respondents (81.8% female, with a mean age of 57, SD=6.65) was used and analyzed with various MANOVAs. The results of this exploratory study yielded some surprises. All respondents used more positive emotion words and present tense, as well as less negative emotion words and past tense at the end of the course. Respondents who improved in positive mental health used more past-, and less present- and future tense during the total course. Interaction effects were found for present tense and the improved and not improved positive mental health groups. Improved respondents used slightly more present tense in the beginning of the course and, towards the end, even remarkably more. Additionally, an interaction effect was found for future tense and the improved and not improved depression group. Not improved respondents used less future tense at the beginning of the course in comparison with improved respondents. In the not improved group a high point was reached in the middle of the course, but the frequencies decreased hereafter. Not improved respondents used more future tense at the end of the course in comparison to the improved ones. An almost constant decrease of future tense could be observed in the improved group. Although all hypotheses were rejected, the results showed clearly that respondents writing style changed during the course. Nevertheless, further research is needed in order to describe the underlying theories and working mechanisms to our full satisfaction.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology MSc (66604)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/62466
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