A Language of Love: The effect of social primes on written narratives
Considerable work has been done in the fields of social and developmental psychology addressing the role of close relationships in influencing behaviors, thoughts, and emotions. Additionally, there is a growing psychological literature regarding the health benefits of expressing oneself through language, and how individuals differ in communication styles and narrative construction. This study aims to bridge these two emerging fields of empirical investigation. To date, no lines of research have been explored to assess the explicit influence of close relationships on how individuals express themselves using language. In the present study, participants were primed to think about a real life experience with a close other, or a casual acquaintance (as a control). They were then asked to perform a stream-of-consciousness writing exercise, describing their thoughts and feelings about their transition to college. The written texts were subjected to a word-count computer analysis program that searches for patterns of language belonging to various linguistic, psychological, and sociological categories. In participants' written responses, the prevalence of certain terminology significant to close relationships was found to be greater among those primed with a close relationship experience. Individuals' close relationship styles, as measured through questionnaires, moderated this effect. The implications of these results can potentially inform relationship counseling, strategies for effective interpersonal communication, and contribute to the already established tradition of using writing as a form of psychological catharsis.
Attachment; Internal Working Model; Script; Attachment Style; Narrative
dissertation or thesis