Written emotional expression and emotional well-being: the moderating role of fear of rejection.

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2005 Jun;31(6):818-30.

Langens TA1, Schüler J.

Empirical research shows that individuals high in fear of rejection typically report low levels of perceived social support and are more vulnerable to stressful experiences. At the same time, writing about stressful experiences in an emotional way seems to help people adapt to current stressors and not-yet-assimilated stressful experiences. Therefore, the authors suggest that written emotional expression may be a particularly effective strategy to manage negative emotions for individuals high in fear of rejection. Three studies were conducted to test these assumptions. Study 1 found that high fear of rejection is linked to a lack of perceived social support. Longitudinal Studies 2 and 3 supported our main hypothesis, demonstrating that written emotional expression is linked to lower levels of negative mood among individuals high (but not among individuals low) in fear of rejection.


Effects of written emotional expression: the role of positive expectancies.

Health Psychol. 2007 Mar;26(2):174-82.

Langens TA1, Schüler J.

Writing in an emotional way about stressful or traumatic experiences has beneficial effects on emotional well-being and physical health. Yet the mechanisms that underlie these effects still need to be explored. Integrating research on the effects of positive expectancies, the authors suggest that positive effects of written emotional expression may, in part, depend on expectancies induced by writing about emotional experiences.


Two studies were conducted to test this hypothesis. In both studies, participants wrote about either an upsetting event or trivial issues. After the writing period, participants rated their expectancies that the writing intervention would improve (or impair) their emotional well-being over time.


Study 1 assessed the emotional impact of an upsetting event, whereas Study 2 assessed subjective reports of physical symptoms. In both studies, outcome variables were collected both before and 6 weeks after the writing intervention.


The results showed that (a) writing about upsetting experiences induced higher positive expectancies than writing about trivial issues and (b) expectancies associated with written emotional expression were related to a reduction in the emotional impact of an upsetting event (Study 1) and to a reduction in physical symptoms (Study 2).


There may be 2 alternative ways to render written emotional expression effective in reducing negative emotions: (a) by rendering an emotional experience more meaningful and (b) by inducing positive affect regulation expectancies.


Effects of writing about emotions versus goals on psychological and physical health among third-year medical students.

J Pers. 2006 Feb;74(1):267-86.

Austenfeld JL1, Paolo AM, Stanton AL.

A randomized, controlled trial compared writing about emotional topics (EMO) to writing about goals as the “best possible self” (BPS; after King, 2001) and evaluated emotional approach coping, i.e., efforts to cope through processing and expressing emotion, as a moderator of writing effects on psychological and physical health in 64 third-year medical students. In participants with higher baseline hostility, the EMO condition was associated with less hostility at 3 months compared to the BPS and control conditions. Emotional processing (EP) and emotional expression (EE) moderated the effect of experimental condition on depressive symptoms at 3 months; high EP/EE participants reported fewer depressive symptoms in the EMO condition, whereas low EP/EE individuals reported fewer depressive symptoms in the BPS condition compared to the EMO and control conditions. A moderating effect of EP on physical health was also identified, such that low EP individuals who wrote about goals (BPS) had fewer health care visits at 3 months compared to low EP participants in the EMO and control conditions.


An Investigation of the Efficacy of Online Expressive Writing for Trauma-Related Psychological Distress in Hispanic Individuals

MichiyoHiraiSusan T.SkidmoreGeorge A.ClumSerkanDolma

Behavior Therapy

Volume 43, Issue 4, December 2012, Pages 812-824

This study compared the efficacy of 2 online expressive writing protocols for a traumatic/stressful life event in a Hispanic student sample. Participants who had reported a traumatic event were randomly assigned to either the emotion-focused group or the fact-focused group. The emotion-focused group focused their written accounts on emotions and feelings as well as facts about a stressful/traumatic experience, whereas the fact-focused group focused on facts of a stressful/traumatic event. Both groups completed 3 online writing sessions scheduled for 3 consecutive days, a 1-week online follow-up assessment, and a 5-week online follow-up assessment. Both groups statistically significantly reduced trauma symptoms over time with the emotion-focused group demonstrating statistically significantly greater trauma symptom reductions than the fact-focused group at the 5-week follow-up assessment.


► The efficacy of two online expressive writing protocols for trauma was examined. ► The emotion-focused group and the fact-focused group were compared. ► Participants were Latino students. ► Both groups statistically significantly reduced trauma symptoms over time. ► The emotion-focused group was relatively superior to the fact-focused group.