University of Twente Student Theses


Making meaning of a post-pandemic future: The association between language use and uncertainty tolerance

Pieroth, L.J.A. (2022) Making meaning of a post-pandemic future: The association between language use and uncertainty tolerance.

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Abstract:This study investigates individuals’ language use when making meaning of a post-Covid-19 pandemic future, associated with differing uncertainty tolerance. Uncertainty tolerance can be defined as the extent to which people are able to deal with feelings of uncertainty. Events such as the Covid-19 pandemic are associated with uncertainty, and hence, they require individuals to re-evaluate meaning of the present and future. By using language in future narratives, experiences can be described which can be used to make meaning by guiding present thoughts and behaviour. By analysing those experiences, the following research question will be answered: How do people differing in uncertainty tolerance use language to make meaning of a desired post-corona future? To investigate this, a cross-sectional, international online study was conducted. Participants from different countries were asked to describe their desired future in a creative writing exercise from a time point when the pandemic would be over. The study aimed to measure uncertainty tolerance with three items of control, certainty, and comfort towards the desired future. Based on differing scores of uncertainty tolerance, four groups were created. A method that can transform large amounts of written data into variables, Digital Story Grammar (DSG), was applied to the letters identifying narrative patterns. This resulted in the groups displaying different meaning making processes identified as (1) realistic optimists, (2) dualistic preparers, (3) caring pioneers, and (4) hopeful inactivists. By considering the groups’ uncertainty tolerance, it showed that the dualistic preparers (i.e. lowest uncertainty tolerance) tended to display a more negative future as compared to those with higher uncertainty tolerance (i.e. realistic optimists, caring pioneers, hopeful inactivists). As such, it can be recommended to support the unique needs of each group in tailored interventions to guide present actions in uncertain times.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology MSc (66604)
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