Differences in Styles of Writing about a Tragic Public Event over Time

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This pilot study analyzed the actual language used in two writing samples by university students (8 men, 28 women) about a tragic public incident, the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack. To analyze samples a computer-based text-analysis program with a wide range of psychological dimensions and linguistic variables was used. More words and more past tense verbs were used right after the incident. Words related to religion, family, and home increased dramatically right after the incident.

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... While these data present interesting insights into how a general sample may process information in the aftermath of disaster, the relationship between such linguistic elements and trauma-related pathology is not addressed. Similarly, Lee and Park (2004) examined two writing samples from 36 college students immediately after 9/11, and again 2 months later. Participants were asked to write about their reactions to the event, as well as to write their understanding of why the attacks occurred. ...
... Participants were asked to write about their reactions to the event, as well as to write their understanding of why the attacks occurred. Their sample utilized more words overall and more words related to religion, family and home immediately following 9/11 (Lee & Park, 2004), which the authors suggest reflect needs for security and community. ...
Prior research has linked content analysis drawn from text narratives to psychopathology in trauma survivors. This study used a longitudinal design to determine whether linguistic elements of narrative memories of first hearing about the events of 11 September 2001 predict later post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Narratives and self-report PTSD symptoms were collected within 1 week and again 5 months after 9/11 in 40 undergraduates. People who used more “we” words at Time 1 had fewer acute PTSD symptoms. Use of more cognitive mechanism words, more religion words, more first-person singular pronouns, and fewer anxiety words at Time 1 were related to more chronic PTSD symptoms. Linguistic characteristics accounted for variance in chronic PTSD symptoms above and beyond acute PTSD symptoms. This study provides evidence that lasting PTSD symptoms can be predicted through language in the immediate aftermath of the trauma. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
... One community setting affected by disasters is that of the academic institution, where large populations of diverse individuals can be joined by communal tragedies or crisis events that occur on or near campus. Studies on college students in the aftermath of 9/11 have focused on students who were vicarious victims of the disaster with mental health impacts (Ai, Cascio, Santangelo, & Evans-Campbell, 2005;Blanchard et al., 2004;Blanchard, Rowell, Kuhn, Rogers, & Wittrock, 2005;Cardenas, Williams, Wilson, Fanouraki, & Singh, 2003;DeRoma et al., 2003;Liverant, Hofmann, & Litz, 2004;Murphy, Wismar, & Freeman, 2003;Wayment, 2004), as well as those sampled for studies on individ-ual-level characteristics (Fredrickson, Tugade, Waugh, & Larkin, 2003;Lee & Park, 2004;Piiparinen & Smith, 2003;Schmidt, 2004;Walker & Chestnut, 2003;Woike & Matic, 2004) or social perceptions about the disaster that occurred on U.S. soil (Reser & Muncer, 2004;Strenge, 2003). ...
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As part of a larger needs assessment of social workers, this study focuses the September 11, 2001 (9/11), experiences of 286 first-year MSW students and 206 agency-based field instructors in New York City, in response to 9/11. Their perception of the school of social work's disaster response was collected at 1 month from narrative responses to questionnaire items. Results showed that students felt conflicted about the university's response; in class, group discussion was beneficial, others wanted normal school routines. Some field instructors surveyed felt supported by the academic institution, yet others felt underutilized. The school of social work, embedded within the larger community, acts as a central hub of information, training, and resources in times of a national catastrophe.
A field experiment adjacent to the former World Trade Center in New York City on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks examined the prediction of terror management theory (TMT; Greenberg, Pyszcznyski, & Solomon, 1986) that individuals validate their cultural beliefs when exposed to subtle rather than overt death reminders. Participants (N = 410) who were exposed to a subtle reminder of 9/11 perceived more social consensus for their belief than those who were exposed to an overt one. Consistent with TMT, the pattern was especially strong for participants with the minority belief. The effect abated once the anniversary ended. The implications of this research and future directions are discussed.
A language analysis program, Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC), was successful in identifying various psychological variables. This study investigated the relationship between spoken language and age inferred from drama scripts of 162 characters, analyzed by the Korean-LIWC across 4 age categories (10-19, 20-39, 40-59, and 60-79 years). Analysis indicated that younger characters use fewer phrases, morphemes, nouns, auxiliary words, and adverbs than older characters, suggesting less cognitive development of younger characters. In addition, younger characters used less positive words for emotion and achievement than older characters. These data appear contrary to the negative stereotypes of aging people.
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