Traditional vs. self-compassionate expressive writing: differentiating processes through linguistic analysis

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Anahita Z. Kalianivala (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Kari Eddington

Abstract: Expressive writing (EW) is an experimental paradigm developed by Pennebaker and colleagues (Pennebaker & Beall, 1986). In traditional EW tasks, participants are asked to disclose their deepest thoughts and emotions concerning the most traumatic or stressful event of their lives. Consistent with the notion that EW may be beneficial for those with psychological diagnoses, research has looked to individual differences that infer risk or are associated with the maintenance of psychological disorders. It has been posited that an underlying mechanism of EW is the implicit message for participants to be accepting and non-judgmental towards their emotions and cognitions through the instruction to delve into one’s deepest thoughts and feelings. Thus, EW may be a particularly useful intervention tool for individuals prone to rumination, a repetitive form of thinking about the self, especially one’s sad or depressed feelings (Nolen-Hoeksema, Wisco, & Lyubomirsky, 2008). In particular, Baum and Rude (2013) proposed self-compassion as a related construct that may further enhance the benefit of EW. The current study sought to align multiple arms of EW research that have typically been separately pursued: comparing traditional EW to an adapted paradigm (e.g., providing instructions that guide participants to engage in principles of self-compassion,); measuring individual differences which may impact EW benefit; and conducting linguistic analysis to further understand psychological processes occurring during writing. Overall, participants reported both EW conditions as beneficial, on average. Negative affect increased across writing sessions for the full sample, consistent with typical immediate effects of EW. However, none of the hypothesized differences in affect or cognitive word use by EW condition were supported, nor were the moderation effects of rumination.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
Expressive writing, Linguistic inquiry and word count, LIWC, Rumination, Self-compassion
Creative writing $x Therapeutic use
Writing $x Psychological aspects
Linguistic analysis (Linguistics)
Rumination (Psychology)

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