Beneficial Effects of Expressive Writing in the Elderly

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Title: Beneficial Effects of Expressive Writing in the Elderly
Author: Weatherbee, Sarah Rose
Advisors: Dr. Jason C. Allaire, Committee Chair
Dr. Thomas Hess, Committee Member
Dr. Katherine Klein, Committee Member
Abstract: The current investigation examined whether expressive writing produced gains in elders' cognitive functioning. Given previous research, it was expected that expressive writing would reduce intrusive thoughts, which would lead to gains in cognitive performance. In the current study community dwelling elders (n = 61) with a mean age of 75 years (range = 61 — 94; SD = 7.70) were given a 2-hour pretest battery, which consisted of measures of basic cognitive ability, everyday cognition, and intrusive thinking. Following pretesting participants were randomly assigned to either the emotional expressive writing group or the non-emotional writing group where they were instructed to write for 20 minutes on five occasions over 10-days. Following the intervention all participants returned for post-testing, which occurred seven days after the writing period. Contrary to expectations, there was no evidence of a time by condition interaction for intrusive thinking. When cognitive change was examined a pretest to posttest gain was found for processing speed performance when collapsing across the two experimental groups. A similar pattern was also found for the measure of everyday cognitive functioning within the domain of memory. Discussion will focus on the fact that changes in cognitive performance may not necessarily be attributed entirely to the intervention; rather it could be mental exercise or mere practice effects.
Date: 2007-01-22
Degree: MS
Discipline: Psychology

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