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Stories we tell about national trauma reflect our psychological well-being
Date:7/28/2009

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A new study by psychologists at the University at Buffalo and the F. W. Olin College of Engineering finds that in the aftermath of national trauma, the ability to make sense out of what happened has implications for individual well-being and that the kinds of stories people tell about the incident predict very different psychological outcomes for them.

The study, "The Political is Personal: Narrating 9/11 and Psychological Well-Being," is by Jonathan M. Adler, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Olin, and Michael J. Poulin, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at UB.

"Understanding the stories people tell about national events provides a unique opportunity to understand how individual well-being is linked to the state of the society," Poulin explains.

The study is published in the August issue of Journal of Personality. An online version of the study can be found online at the journal site: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/fulltext/122387789/HTMLSTART

"Our findings suggest that different ways of writing about the events of 9/11 relate to different psychological outcomes," Poulin says, and that the different ways people describe traumatic national events -- even those they do not experience directly -- are linked to different levels of psychological adaptation.

"To sum up," he says, "we found that psychological well-being was associated with post-trauma stories that were high in closure, high in redemptive imagery and high in themes of national redemption. Psychological distress, on the other hand, was significantly related to accounts that were low in closure, high in contaminative imagery and high in themes of personal contamination."

The researchers looked at personal accounts about experiences of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 written by 395 adults from across the country, some of whom were more intimately connected to the events in question than were others. They then compared the narr
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Contact: Patricia Donovan
716-645-4602
University at Buffalo
Source:Eurekalert

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