Using the Trauma Film Paradigm to Understand the Effects of Emotional Expression in Individual and Group Contexts on Distress and Negative Cognitions




Ryan-Gonzalez, Clark

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Objective: The current study used the trauma film paradigm to explore whether individuals who were directed to talk about one's own thoughts and feelings in an individual vs. group context experienced better adjustment than individuals who had been left to recover on their own. Method: 185 female undergraduate students watched a stressful film clip depicting sexual assault. Afterwards, participants were randomized to one of three conditions where they were directed to talk about their thoughts and feelings regarding the film in groups of four (Group-EE), individually (Individual-EE), or wait by themselves and not talk (NR). Participants completed self-report measures of distress (state anxiety, negative affect, and positive affect) and negative cognitions at three time points (pre-film, post-film, and post-condition). Results: Analyses indicated a significant interaction of Time x Condition for state anxiety and negative affect. Specifically, the NR condition exhibited the greatest decrease in state anxiety and negative affect. There were no significant interactions of Time x Condition for either positive affect or negative cognitions. Conclusions: Findings indicate that, compared to allowing an individual to recover on their own, prompting an individual to discuss their thoughts and feelings individually or in a group context has a limited effect on the prevention of adverse responses (i.e., state anxiety, negative affect) in the initial hour after exposure to a stressor.


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Distress, Emotional Expression, Group, Negative Cognitions, Trauma Film Paradigm