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New Research From Clinical Psychological Science

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Read about the latest research published in Clinical Psychological Science.

Expressive Writing Can Impede Emotional Recovery Following Marital Separation

David A. Sbarra, Adriel Boals, Ashley E. Mason, Grace M. Larson, and Matthias R. Mehl

Expressive writing (EW) is a therapeutic exercise in which individuals write about their deepest thoughts and feelings related to a trauma. This study examined the effectiveness of a new form of expressive writing called narrative expressive writing (NEW). Recently separated individuals were assigned to complete a traditional EW, a NEW, or a control writing exercise. Results indicated that participants in the EW and NEW groups with high levels of rumination who were judged to be actively searching for meaning in their separation reported more separation-related distress than did those in the control condition. This suggests that it may not be advisable for all individuals to complete EW exercises as an intervention for dealing with stressful life events.

Mild Uncertainty Promotes Checking Behavior in Subclinical Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Marieke B. J. Toffolo, Marcel A. van den Hout, Ignace T. C. Hooge, Iris M. Engelhard, and Danielle C. Cath

Individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCDs) will often compulsively check to make sure they have completed an act such as locking a door. In this study, the authors examined whether more general uncertainty would also induce compulsive checking behaviors. Individuals with high and low levels of OCD tendencies were asked to look for a closed square amid a display of open squares. The closed square was present in only half the trials. High OCD participants checked longer and had more eye fixations than did low OCD participants only in trials in which the closed square was absent. This finding suggests that general levels of uncertainty may induce individuals with OCD to engage in repetitive checking behaviors.

Use of Nonconscious Priming to Promote Self-Disclosure

Elizabeth Grecco, Steven J. Robbins, Eleonora Bartoli, and Edward F. Wolff

Can nonconscious priming encourage people to disclose personal thoughts and feelings to a stranger? Participants performed a scrambled-sentence task meant to prime the concept of disclosure or nondisclosure. They also filled out several so-called personality rating scales that were meant to induce a willingness or unwillingness to self-disclose. After these priming tasks, participants wrote two open-ended descriptive essays about themselves. Participants in the disclosure priming group wrote significantly longer essays with more statements of feeling in them than did those in the nondisclosure group. This suggests that priming could be useful in certain situations — such as therapy — to help patients be more open and expressive with their thoughts and feelings.

Well-Being From the Knife? Psychological Effects of Aesthetic Surgery

Jürgen Margraf, Andrea H. Meyer, and Kristen L. Lavallee

Although people undergo plastic surgery with the goal of improving their well-being, the long-term impact of surgery on well-being has not been confirmed. Individuals who received aesthetic surgery and those on a waiting list for surgery reported their goal attainment expectations, feelings of attractiveness, self-esteem, quality of life, and psychopathology prior to surgery and 3, 6, and 12 months after surgery. Participants who underwent surgery reported increased well-being, quality of life, perceived attractiveness, and reduced anxiety in comparison with those who wanted surgery but had not yet undergone it. This seems to support the idea that undergoing aesthetic surgery results in positive psychological changes.