Effects of Self versus Other Blame on the Benefits of Expressive Writing

Doctoral Dissertation


Expressive writing has been established over the last several decades as an effective way to cope with distressing life events. Although the literature has clearly established the health benefits of expressive writing, the mechanisms that cause those benefits are still under debate. An area that has yet to be explored in the expressive writing literature is that of blame attributions in the writing. Previous research has shown that placing blame on oneself or others is associated with poorer physical and mental health outcomes. However, no studies have tested the effects of manipulating blame in the writing. The current study filled a gap in both the expressive writing and blame literatures by manipulating self versus other blame in the writing of participants. Approximately 217 undergraduates were randomly assigned to engage in one of five 25-min writing tasks. The first group wrote about a distressing event and served as a standard expressive writing control. A second control group wrote about trivial events. The remaining 3 groups were asked to write about a distressing event while engaging in one of the following: (a) placing the blame for the event on oneself, (b) placing the blame for the event on someone else, or © not blaming anyone for the event. All groups completed pre- and post-test measures of psychological and physical symptomatology. Results found that participants in the other-blame group showed significantly less symptom reduction that those in the standard expressive writing group. However, participants in the self-blame group showed symptom reduction equivalent to that of the standard expressive writing group. The findings point to the study of self-blame, particularly behavioral self-blame, as a promising future research direction in the expressive writing literature.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-07192012-220149

Author Diane Macready
Advisor Anita Kelly, PhD
Contributor Anita Kelly, PhD, Committee Chair
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Psychology
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2012-07-06

Submission Date 2012-07-19
  • United States of America

  • written disclosure

  • blame attributions

  • writing paradigm

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


Please Note: You may encounter a delay before a download begins. Large or infrequently accessed files can take several minutes to retrieve from our archival storage system.