Thesis Title

Effects of Writing About Trauma and Best Possible Future Self on Health and Mood

Date of Graduation

Spring 2003


Master of Science in Psychology



Committee Chair

John Maloney


There have been many studies which indicated beneficial effects of writing about stressful experiences on health; however, negative emotional experiences associated with the writing task have also been reported in these studies. Recently, King (2001) introduced the Best Possible Future Self (BPS) as a writing topic and reported that writing about BPS led to reduction in the number of health center visits without experiencing negative emotion. The purpose of this study was to examine King's finding using on-line computer reporting. Based on prior studies, it was hypothesized that: 1) Writing about traumatic experiences would have more negative effects on mood than writing about BPS; 2) Both writing about trauma and BPS would be superior to control writing in self-reported health; 3) Writing about trauma would bring health benefits only to optimistic individuals; however, all individuals in BPS condition would experience improved health. In this study, 207 undergraduate students were asked to write about traumatic experiences, BPS, or a control topic on an on-line reporting form for 20 minutes each day for four consecutive days. Participants' moods and health symptoms were self-reported. The results revealed significant short term effects on mood which lasted less than one week. Participants in the trauma group reported more negative mood change than participants in the BPS group after writings. The results indicated that participants in all three writing conditions reported fewer health problems at the one-week follow-up; however, the expected group differences were not found. No interaction effects between writing topics and the level of optimism was found. In conclusion, the results of this study were consistent with the finding in the prior studies in regard to the effects on mood; however, there were some inconsistencies concerning the effects on health.

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