Reappraisal writing relieves social anxiety and may be accompanied by changes in frontal alpha asymmetry.

Front Psychol. 2015 Oct 21;6:1604. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01604. eCollection 2015.

Wang F1, Wang C2, Yin Q1, Wang K3, Li D1, Mao M1, Zhu C1, Huang Y1.

It is widely reported that expressive writing can improve mental and physical health. However, to date, the neural correlates of expressive writing have not been reported. The current study examined the neural electrical correlates of expressive writing in a reappraisal approach. Three groups of participants were required to give a public speech. Before speaking, the reappraisal writing group was asked to write about the current stressful task in a reappraisal manner. The irrelevant writing group was asked to write about their weekly plan, and the non-writing group did not write anything. It was found that following the experimental writing manipulation, both reappraisal and irrelevant writing conditions decreased self-reported anxiety levels. But when re-exposed to the stressful situation, participants in the irrelevant writing group showed increased anxiety levels, while anxiety levels remained lower in the reappraisal group. During the experimental writing manipulation period, participants in the reappraisal group had lower frontal alpha asymmetry scores than those in the irrelevant writing group. However, following re-exposure to stress, participants in the reappraisal group showed higher frontal alpha asymmetry scores than those in the irrelevant writing group. Self-reported anxiety and frontal alpha asymmetry of the non-writing condition did not change significantly across these different stages. It is noteworthy that expressive writing in a reappraisal style seems not to be a fast-acting treatment but may instead take effect in the long run.

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



Psychology & Health

Volume 25, 2010 – Issue 6


Pages 669-684


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.