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Megan Bean

Megan Bean

The impact of writing about life goals on health: Do executive functions play a role?


Discipline/professional area

Outline of research project

Writing about life experiences - inclusive of traumatic events, positive events and imagery of a best possible future self - has been found to be associated with benefits across physical health, psychological wellbeing, and cognitive function. My PhD aims to further this knowledge, by examining whether encouraging specificity of life goals through writing may alleviate symptoms of depression, and increase motivation to achieve goals. This would be expected in light of evidence that individuals with depression commonly 'over-generalise' goals, thus reducing motivation for attainment, and augmenting learned helplessness. Furthermore, given that executive functions include skills crucial for the planning of goals, my work aims to explore whether levels of various executive functions influence the efficacy of the writing intervention.

Key references

Abramson, A., Alloy, L.B., and Metalsky, G.I. (1989). Hopelessness depression: A theory-based subtype of depression. Psychological Review, 96, 358-372.

Baikie, K.A., and Wilhelm, K. (2005). Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 11(5), 338-346.

Carver, C.S., Lavoie, L., Kuhl, J., and Ganellen, R.J. (1988). Cognitive concomitants of depression: A further examination of the roles of generalization, high standards, and self-criticism. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 7, 350-365.

Freitas, A.L., Salovey, P., Liberman, N. (2001). Abstract and concrete self-evaluation goals. Journal of Personality And Social Psychology, 80, 410-424.

King, L.A. (2001). The health benefits of writing about life goals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27(7), 798-807.

Pennebaker, J.W. (1997). Writing about emotional experiences as a therapeutic process. Psychological Science, 8(3), 162-166.

Director of studies
Dr Katie Cutts

Dr John Reidy
Dr Madelynne Arden

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