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Health Psychol. 2007 Mar;26(2):174-82.

Effects of written emotional expression: the role of positive expectancies.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, University of Wuppertal, Wuppertal, Germany. langens@uni-wuppertal.de

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Writing in an emotional way about stressful or traumatic experiences has beneficial effects on emotional well-being and physical health. Yet the mechanisms that underlie these effects still need to be explored. Integrating research on the effects of positive expectancies, the authors suggest that positive effects of written emotional expression may, in part, depend on expectancies induced by writing about emotional experiences.

DESIGN:

Two studies were conducted to test this hypothesis. In both studies, participants wrote about either an upsetting event or trivial issues. After the writing period, participants rated their expectancies that the writing intervention would improve (or impair) their emotional well-being over time.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:

Study 1 assessed the emotional impact of an upsetting event, whereas Study 2 assessed subjective reports of physical symptoms. In both studies, outcome variables were collected both before and 6 weeks after the writing intervention.

RESULTS:

The results showed that (a) writing about upsetting experiences induced higher positive expectancies than writing about trivial issues and (b) expectancies associated with written emotional expression were related to a reduction in the emotional impact of an upsetting event (Study 1) and to a reduction in physical symptoms (Study 2).

CONCLUSIONS:

There may be 2 alternative ways to render written emotional expression effective in reducing negative emotions: (a) by rendering an emotional experience more meaningful and (b) by inducing positive affect regulation expectancies.

PMID:
17385969
DOI:
10.1037/0278-6133.26.2.174
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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