Working Mechanisms of Expressive Writing – Focusing on the Linguistic Indicators Pronouns, Tense, and Emotion Words

Experimental manipulations of perspective taking and perspective switching in expressive writing


Cognition and Emotion

Volume 25, 2011

Previous studies suggest that those who naturally vary their pronoun use over the course of expressive writing subsequently report the greatest improvements in physical and mental health. To explore possible perspective taking or perspective switching effects, two studies manipulated writing perspectives about emotional events from either a first-person, second-person, or third-person perspective. In Study 1, 55 students were randomly assigned to one of the three writing perspectives and were asked to write from the same perspective for three 5-minute writing sessions. In Study 2, 129 students wrote for three 5-minute sessions, one from each perspective in a counterbalanced order. The results showed that writing from a first-person perspective conferred more perceived benefits and was associated with using more cognitive mechanism words, whether engaged in perspective taking or perspective switching.