The Development of an Emotional Response to Writing Measure: The Affective Cognition Writing Survey

By Fischer, Ronald G.; Fischer, Jerome M. et al. | Michigan Journal of Counseling, Spring-Summer 2010 | Go to article overview
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The Development of an Emotional Response to Writing Measure: The Affective Cognition Writing Survey


Fischer, Ronald G., Fischer, Jerome M., Jain, Sachin, Michigan Journal of Counseling


It has been demonstrated that the disclosure of events and in particular traumatic events for most people is therapeutic (Frattaroli, 2006). Connecting emotions, language processing, and cognition (Pennebaker & Francis, 1996) has led to research to determine the psychological effects of writing on emotions (Pennebaker, 1997). The act of writing has been associated with enhancing positive emotional processing and has been found to be therapeutic (Bootzin, 1997; Esterling, Abate, Murray, & Pennebaker, 1999; Kloss, & Lisman; 2002; Marlo,& Wagner, 1999). Studies have provided evidence of the positive effects of writing on stress (Cameron & Nicholls, 1998; Francis & Pennebaker, 1992) trauma (Greenberg & Stone; 1992; Park,& Blumberg, 2002; Smyth, True & Souto, 2001), intrusive thoughts and depression (Lepore, 1997), working memory (Klein & Boals, 2001), and coping with job loss (Spera, Buhrfeind, & Pennebaker, 1994). Furthermore, the processing of emotions to enhance the well being of individuals and clients has its roots in the emergence of the theoretical perspective of emotional intelligence.

Expressive Writing Research Results

The efficacy of disclosure and expressive writing has been researched (Frattaroli, 2006). However, the construct has been recognized to be complex (Smyth & Pennebaker, 2008). Whereas therapeutic gain has been evidenced, some studies have had negative outcomes (Gidron, et al., 2002). Men with post traumatic stress disorder had increased illness-related doctor's visits. Some participants in disclosure research have found the experience to be counter-productive even objectionable (Frattaroli, 2001). Short-term increases in negative affect by focusing on stressful experiences have been reported, but long-term exacerbation of symptoms have been rare (Horowitz, 2008).

Other studies (Frisina, Borod, & Lepore, 2004) found no significant increases in positive outcomes, e.g., participants with severe psychological issues (Bird, 1992), negative body image (Earnhardt, Martz, Ballard & Curtin, 2002), primary insomnia (Mooney, Espie & Broomfield, 2009) and suicidal tendencies (Kovac & Range, 2002). Hence it has been posited that there may be different explanations for positive outcomes for expressive writing (Frattaroli, 2006). Smyth and Pennebaker (2008) suggested a cognitive-processing theory, whereby people who gain from writing about emotions try to make sense of the events they are disclosing, gain insight into the events, and organize and integrate the experiences into their self-schema. The aforementioned activities are related to emotional intelligence.

Historical Emergence of Emotional Intelligence

Traditionally intelligence has been measured by verbal, abstract, visual, and quantitative reasoning along with memory (Thorndike, Hagen, & Sattler, 1986). Wechsler (1997) constructed his intelligence test to measure verbal and performance constructs. Subsequent factor analysis of the Wechsler IQ test identified verbal comprehension, perceptual organization, freedom from distraction and processing speed as underlying constructs (Kamphaus, Benson, Hutchinson, & Platt, 1994). However, it has been recognized by the Wechsler that non-intellective factors need to be taken into account when assessing intelligence. These factors included inclination, affect, personality, drive, persistence, and goal awareness.

Howard Gardner (1983) conceived of intelligence as consisting of multiple abilities not typically measured by the various well-known intelligence tests. He posited that seven constructs existed: visual/spatial, musical, verbal, logical/mathematical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and bodily/kinesthetic. Interpersonal intelligence was defined as communication and understanding others' feelings and motives. Accordingly, intrapersonal intelligence was defined as awareness of one's own feelings and self-motivation.

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