Date of Award

1998

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Susan Gee

Abstract

The theory of inhibition and psychosomatic disease supports the concept that failure to express emotion is psychologically and physically stressful, and associated with long-term health problems. One aspect of this study was to investigate the discrepancy hypothesis proposing that specific emotional coping styles elicit patterns of discrepant self-report and physiological responses. The major focus of the study tested whether matching therapeutic writing tasks to specific emotional coping styles would significantly decrease stress and somatic symptoms, and whether mismatching such writing tasks to emotional coping styles would not decrease stress and somatic symptoms. Undergraduate students were identified as having an emotional coping style of either expression or repression. Within each expresser and repressor group, participants were randomly assigned to 'profound' or 'distractor' writing tasks. This served to both match and mismatch writing tasks to emotional coping styles. Pre-test and post-test measures of stress and somatic symptoms determined the effects of a two week writing intervention period. Data was analysed through a series of 2 x 2 x 2 (Timex Emotion Group x Intervention) split plot analysis of variance (SPANOVA) tests. The pattern of results did not support the discrepancy hypothesis, as repressors were slightly higher on all measures than expressers. Results of the matching hypothesis revealed reductions in stress over time that were not related to the writing tasks. Findings suggested influences of the Hawthorne effect and a placebo effect, whereby empathic acknowledgement and self-disclosure of a senior peer may have led to cognitive and emotional reappraisal, thereby leading to changes in stress related behaviour. Possible avenues for future research and cost effective interventions for universities are discussed.

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