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Int J Eat Disord. 2007 Dec;40(8):711-7.

Linguistic analyses of natural written language: unobtrusive assessment of cognitive style in eating disorders.

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Center for Psychotherapy Research, University Hospital Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.



Linguistic style analysis is introduced as a method of nonreactive measurement of cognitive style in individuals with eating disorders (ED).


A journaling exercise was implemented on an ED inpatient unit. Thirty-four written essays collected from an unselected sample of 11 patients were analysed with the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count, with regard to predefined text categories. At each session, self-report of participant well-being and session impact were assessed.


Compared to essays from a student control group, and message-board entries of individuals who had recovered from an anorexia nervosa (AN), the inpatient journals displayed the highest rates of self-related words, negative emotion words, and the lowest rate of positive emotion words. Inpatients used more anxiety words and fewer words that refer to social processes and eating concerns than individuals who had recovered from an AN. Associations were found between linguistic categories, prewriting well-being, and postwriting evaluation.


Linguistic style analysis offers insights into cognitive styles, and provides a promising approach for their unobtrusive measurement in ED.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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