When Chatting About Negative Experiences Helps-and When It Hurts: Distinguishing Adaptive Versus Maladaptive Social Support in Computer-Mediated Communication

David S. Lee, Ariana Orvell, Julia Briskin, Taylor Shrapnell, Susan A. Gelman, Ozlem Ayduk, Oscar Ybarra, Ethan Kross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Does talking to others about negative experiences improve the way people feel? Although some work suggests that the answer to this question is "yes," other work reveals the opposite. Here we attempt to shed light on this puzzle by examining how people can talk to others about their negative experiences constructively via computer-mediated communication, a platform that people increasingly use to provide and receive social support. Drawing from prior research on meaning-making and self-reflection, we predicted that cueing participants to reconstrue their experience in ways that lead them to focus on it from a broader perspective during a conversation would buffer them against negative affect and enhance their sense of closure compared with cueing them to recount the emotionally arousing details concerning what happened. Results supported this prediction. Content analyses additionally revealed that participants in the reconstrue condition used the word "you" generically (e.g., you cannot always get what you want) more than participants in the recount condition, identifying a linguistic mechanism that supports reconstrual. These findings highlight the psychological processes that distinguish adaptive versus maladaptive ways of talking about negative experiences, particularly in the context of computer-mediated support interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEmotion
DOIs
StatePublished - 2020

Keywords

  • Computer-mediated communication
  • Coping
  • Emotion regulation
  • Meaning-making
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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