JOURNAL ARTICLE
RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL

Expressive writing can increase working memory capacity

K Klein, A Boals
Journal of Experimental Psychology. General 2001, 130 (3): 520-33
11561925
The effect of emotional disclosure through expressive writing on available working memory (WM) capacity was examined in 2 semester-long experiments. In the first study, 35 freshmen assigned to write about their thoughts and feelings about coming to college demonstrated larger working memory gains 7 weeks later compared with 36 writers assigned to a trivial topic. Increased use of cause and insight words was associated with greater WM improvements. In the second study, students (n = 34) who wrote about a negative personal experience enjoyed greater WM improvements and declines in intrusive thinking compared with students who wrote about a positive experience (n = 33) or a trivial topic (n = 34). The results are discussed in terms of a model grounded in cognitive and social psychological theory in which expressive writing reduces intrusive and avoidant thinking about a stressful experience, thus freeing WM resources.

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