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Psychol Health. 2010 Jul;25(6):669-84. doi: 10.1080/08870440902883196.

How benefits of expressive writing vary as a function of writing instructions, ethnicity and ambivalence over emotional expression.

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Department of Psychology, University of Houston, Houston, TX 77204, USA.


Written emotional disclosure has been reported to confer a variety of benefits on physical and psychological well-being. However, variable findings suggest that outcomes may vary systematically as a function of specific parameters of the experimental design. This study aims to investigate the unique and combined effects of disclosure instructions focusing on emotional expression and instructions facilitating cognitive reappraisal and to examine how ambivalence over emotional expression and ethnicity moderate the effects of these writing instructions. Seventy-one Asian and 59 Caucasian undergraduates (N = 130) with at least minimal physical or depressive symptoms were randomly assigned to one of the four writing conditions: emotional disclosure (ED), cognitive reappraisal (COG), the combination of ED and COG, or a control condition. Self-reported physical symptoms, positive affect (PA) and negative affect were assessed at baseline and three follow-ups spanning 4 months. Mixed linear models revealed that COG writing reduced physical symptoms, ED buffered a decrease in PA over time, and the combination of ED and COG (i.e. self-regulation; SR) was most effective. Asians and highly ambivalent participants benefited most from expressive writing. Findings contribute to the development of a SR moderator model and carry implications for designing expressive disclosure studies, particularly for ethnic minorities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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