Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Effects of expressive writing and use of cognitive words on meaning making and post-traumatic Growth

  • Lei Zheng (a1), Qian Lu (a2) and Yiqun Gan (a1)

Abstract

Expressive writing can enhance cognitive processing and improve stress regulation. Particularly, the use of cognitive words (i.e., insightful and causal words) in writing may be associated with the process of meaning making and promotion of post-traumatic growth (PTG). The aim of the present study was to determine how expressive writing and the use of causal and insightful cognitive words influenced meaning making and PTG during writing. In total, 52 traumatized university students were recruited and randomly assigned to one of two writing conditions involving either an expressive writing task or a neutral writing task. The results showed that participants who engaged in expressive (vs. neutral) writing showed higher scores on the presence of meaning and PTG in the post-writing, self-report questionnaires. Moreover, writing task (expressive or neutral) and frequency of causal and insightful cognitive words were both significant predictors of meaning, which in turn led to high levels of PTG. In conclusion, the use of causal and insightful words might be a fundamental cognitive process for developing meaning in writing, which is essential for our further understanding of meaning making and PTG.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Effects of expressive writing and use of cognitive words on meaning making and post-traumatic Growth
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Effects of expressive writing and use of cognitive words on meaning making and post-traumatic Growth
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Effects of expressive writing and use of cognitive words on meaning making and post-traumatic Growth
      Available formats
      ×

Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: Yiqun Gan, Email: ygan@pku.edu.cn

References

Hide All
Ayduk, Ö. and Kross, E. (2008). Enhancing the pace of recovery: Self-distanced analysis of negative experiences reduces blood pressure reactivity. Psychological Science 19, 229231.
Baikie, K.A. and Wilhelm, K. (2005). Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment 11, 338346.
Baumeister, R.F. (1991). Meanings of life. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Boals, A. (2012). The use of meaning making in expressive writing: When meaning is beneficial. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 31, 393400.
Boals, A., Banks, J.B., Hathaway, L.M. and Schuettler, D. (2011). Coping with stressful events: Use of cognitive words in stressful narratives and the meaning-making process. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 30, 378387.
Chen, H., Jia, X. and Liu, X. (2016). Psychometric properties and application of Adolescent Self-Rating Life Events Checklist (ASLEC). Chinese Journal of Public Health 32, 11161119.
Chin, W.W. Newsted, P.R. (1999). Structural equation modeling analysis with small samples using partial least squares. Statistical Strategies for Small Sample Research 1, 307341.
Creamer, M., Bell, R. and Failla, S. (2003). Psychometric properties of the impact of event scale — revised. Behaviour Research and Therapy 41, 14891496.
Creswell, J.D., Lam, S., Stanton, A.L., Taylor, S.E., Bower, J.E. and Sherman, D.K. (2007). Does self-affirmation, cognitive processing, or discovery of meaning explain cancer-related health benefits of expressive writing? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 33, 238250.
Faul, F., Erdfelder, E., Lang, A.G. and Buchner, A. (2007). G* Power 3: A flexible statistical power analysis program for the social, behavioral, and biomedical sciences. Behavior Research Methods 39, 175191.
Frattaroli, J. (2006). Experimental disclosure and its moderators: a meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin 132, 823830.
Frisina, P.G., Borod, J.C. and Lepore, S.J. (2004). A meta-analysis of the effects of written emotional disclosure on the health outcomes of clinical populations. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 192, 629634.
Gan, Y., Zheng, L., Wang, Y. and Li, W. (2017). An extension of the meaning making model using data from Chinese cancer patients: The moderating effect of resilience. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy 10, 594601.
Gebler, F.A. and Maercker, A. (2007). Expressive writing and existential writing in coping with traumatic experiences. Trauma & Gewalt 1, 264272.
Harber, K.D. and Pennebaker, J.W. (1992). Overcoming traumatic memories. The Handbook of Emotion and Memory: Research and Theory 32, 359387.
Horowitz, M., Wilner, N. and Alvarez, W. (1979). Impact of Event Scale: A measure of subjective stress. Psychosomatic Medicine 41, 209218.
Huang, C.L., Chung, C.K., Hui, N., Lin, Y.C., Seih, Y.T., Chen, W.C. and Pennebaker, J.W. (2012). The development of the Chinese linguistic inquiry and word count dictionary. Chinese Journal of Psychology 54, 185201.
Hussain, D. (2010). Healing through writing: Insightfuls from research. International Journal of Mental Health Promotion 12, 1923.
Junghaenel, D.U., Smyth, J.M. and Santner, L. (2008). Linguistic dimensions of psychopathology: A quantitative analysis. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 27, 3644.
King, L.A. and Miner, K.N. (2000). Writing about the perceived benefits of traumatic events: Implications for physical health. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 26, 220230.
Klein, K. and Boals, A. (2010). Coherence and narrative structure in personal accounts of stressful experiences. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 29, 256263.
Lepore, S.J., Greenberg, M.A., Bruno, M. and Smyth, J.M. (2002). Expressive writing and health: Self-regulation of emotion-related experience, physiology, and behavior. In Lepore, S.J. and Smyth, J.M. (eds), The writing cure: How expressive writing promotes health and emotional well-being. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, pp. 99117.
Liu, X., Kurita, H., Uchiyama, M., Okawa, M., Liu, L. and Ma, D. (2000). Life events, locus of control, and behavioral problems among Chinese adolescents. Journal of Clinical Psychology 56, 15651577.
Lu, Q., Wong, C.C.Y., Gallagher, M.W., Tou, R.Y., Young, L. and Loh, A. (2017). Expressive writing among Chinese American breast cancer survivors: A randomized controlled trial. Health Psychology 36, 370378.
Lu, Q., Yeung, N.C., You, J. and Dai, J. (2016). Using expressive writing to explore thoughts and beliefs about cancer and treatment among Chinese American immigrant breast cancer survivors. Psycho-oncology 25, 1371.
Miao, M., Zheng, L. and Gan, Y. (2017). Meaning in life promotes proactive coping via positive affect: A daily diary study. Journal of Happiness Studies 18, 16831696.
Park, C.L. (2008). Testing the meaning making model of coping with loss. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 27, 970994.
Park, C.L. (2010). Making sense of the meaning literature: an integrative review of meaning making and its effects on adjustment to stressful life events. Psychological Bulletin 136, 257.
Park, C.L. and Ai, A.L. (2006). Meaning making and growth: New directions for research on survivors of trauma. Journal of Loss and Trauma 11, 389407.
Park, C.L. and Blumberg, C.J. (2002). Disclosing trauma through writing: Testing the meaning-making hypothesis. Cognitive Therapy and Research 26, 597616.
Park, C.L., Cohen, L.H. and Murch, R.L. (1996). Assessment and prediction of stress-related growth. Journal of Personality 64, 71105.
Park, C.L. and Fenster, J.R. (2004). Stress-related growth: Predictors of occurrence and correlates with psychological adjustment. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 23, 195215.
Park, C.L. and Folkman, S. (1997). Meaning in the context of stress and coping. Review of General Psychology 1, 115144.
Pennebaker, J.W. (1997). Writing about emotional experiences as a therapeutic process. Psychological Science 8, 162166.
Pennebaker, J.W. (2000). Telling stories: The health benefits of narrative. Literature and Medicine 19, 318.
Pennebaker, J.W., Booth, R.J. and Francis, M.E. (2007). Linguistic inquiry and word count: LIWC (Computer software). Austin, TX: liwc.net.
Pennebaker, J.W. and Francis, M.E. (1996). Cognitive, emotional, and language processes in disclosure. Cognition & Emotion 10, 601626.
Roepke, A.M. (2015). Psychosocial interventions and posttraumatic growth: A meta-analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 83, 129.
Slavin-Spenny, O.M., Cohen, J.L., Oberleitner, L.M. and Lumley, M.A. (2011). The effects of different methods of emotional disclosure: Differentiating post-traumatic growth from stress symptoms. Journal of Clinical Psychology 67, 9931007.
Schwarzer, R. and Knoll, N. (2003). Positive coping: Mastering demands and searching for meaning. In Lopez, S.J. and Snyder, C.R. (eds), Positive psychological assessment: A handbook of models and measures. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, pp. 393409.
Smyth, J.M. (1998). Written emotional expression: Effect sizes, outcome types, and moderating variables. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 66, 174184.
Smyth, J.M., Hockemeyer, J.R. and Tulloch, H. (2008). Expressive writing and post-traumatic stress disorder: Effects on trauma symptoms, mood states, and cortisol reactivity. British Journal of Health Psychology 13, 8593.
Steger, M.F., Frazier, P., Oishi, S. and Kaler, M. (2006). The meaning in life questionnaire: Assessing the presence of and search for meaning in life. Journal of Counseling Psychology 53, 8093.
Tausczik, Y.R. and Pennebaker, J.W. (2010). The psychological meaning of words: LIWC and computerized text analysis methods. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 29, 2454.
Tedeschi, R.G. and Calhoun, L.G. (1996). The Posttraumatic Growth Inventory: Measuring the positive legacy of trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress 9, 455471.
Tedeschi, R.G. and Calhoun, L.G. (2004). Posttraumatic growth: Conceptual foundations and empirical evidence. Psychological Inquiry 15, 118.
Tedeschi, R.G., Calhoun, L.G. and Cann, A. (2007). Evaluating resource gain: Understanding and misunderstanding posttraumatic growth. Applied Psychology 56, 396406.
Ullrich, P.M. and Lutgendorf, S.K. (2002). Journaling about stressful events: Effects of cognitive processing and emotional expression. Annals of Behavioral Medicine 24, 244250.
Wagner, B., Knaevelsrud, C. and Maercker, A. (2007). Post traumatic growth and optimism as outcomes of an internet-based intervention for complicated grief. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy 36, 156161.
Wang, Y., Gan, Y., Miao, M., Ke, Q., Li, W., Zhang, Z. and Cheng, G. (2015). High-level construal benefits, meaning making, and posttraumatic growth in cancer patients. Palliative and Supportive Care 14, 510518.

Keywords

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed