Effects of expressive writing on standardized graduate entrance exam performance and physical health functioning

Jonathan J Dalton, David S Glenwick
Journal of Psychology 2009, 143 (3): 279-92
A substantial body of literature has demonstrated that expressive writing about an individual's deepest thoughts and feelings regarding a past or ongoing stressful experience results in a wide range of beneficial effects, including physical health and cognitive functioning. The authors examined the effects of writing about a future stressful experience--an impending graduate entrance exam--by comparing the exam performance and physical health functioning of participants who wrote about their deepest thoughts regarding the exam with those of participants who wrote about neutral and nonemotional topics. The experimental group reported a mean exam score that was significantly (19 percentile points) higher than that of the comparison group (i.e., the control group). The participants in the experimental group who wrote on 3--compared with fewer--occasions experienced the greatest benefits. The authors propose possible causal mechanisms for the results and suggest future research questions and applications.

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