Prior research has shown that narrative coherence is associated with more positive emotional responses in the face of traumatic or stressful experiences. However, most of these studies only examined narrative coherence after the stressor had already occurred. Given the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19 in March 2020 in Belgium and the presence of data obtained two years before (February 2018), we could use our baseline narrative coherence data to predict emotional well-being and perceived social support in the midst (...) of the pandemic. In a sample of emerging adults (NT1 = 278, NT2 = 198), higher baseline coherence of narratives about positive autobiographical experiences predicted relative increases in emotional well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the relation between the coherence of positive narratives and emotional well-being was partially mediated by perceived social support. These findings suggest that narrative coherence could be an enhancement factor for adaptive emotional coping with stressful situations, in part by evoking more supportive social reactions. This study demonstrates the importance of researching cognition (narrative coherence) and emotion (well-being) to shed light on pressing societal matters such as the global COVID-19 pandemic. (shrink)
Research QuestionsIn a first research question, we examined whether the relations that are generally observed between the coherence of written autobiographical narratives and outcomes of mental health and social support, can be replicated for the coherence of oral narratives. Second, we studied whether the coherence of oral narratives is related to the coherence of written narratives.MethodsPearson correlations and t-tests were calculated on data of two separate studies to examine the research questions.ResultsFirst, only thematic coherence of oral narratives was significantly, although (...) moderately, negatively associated to symptoms of depression, anxiety and negative social interactions. Second, the coherence of oral narratives was higher than the coherence of written narratives. Only the thematic coherence of oral narratives was positively associated with thematic and total coherence of written narratives. Furthermore, correlations between written and oral narratives were stronger for negative narratives as compared to positive narratives.DiscussionThe ability to elaborate emotionally and make meaning out of important life events in oral narratives is, to a certain extent, related to better mental health and more social support. Furthermore, thematic coherence may be a relatively stable feature of individuals’ narrative styles that is reflected in narratives of different modalities. Nonetheless, these topics need to be further researched to overcome present limitations. (shrink)
We review evidence regarding Tomasello et al.'s proposal that individuals with autism understand intentions but fail socially because of a lack of motivation to share intentions. We argue that they are often motivated to understand others but fail because they lack the perceptual integration skills that are needed to apply their basically intact theory of mind skills in complex social situations.
In order to explain trauma resilience, previous research has been investigating possible risk and protective factors, both on an individual and a contextual level. In this experimental study, we examined narrative coherence and social support in relation to trauma resilience. Participants were asked to write about a turning point memory, after which they did the Maastricht Acute Stress Test, our lab analog of a traumatic event. Following, half of the participants received social support, whereas the other half did not. Afterwards, (...) all participants wrote a narrative on the traumatic event. Moment-to-moment fluctuations in psychological and physiological well-being throughout the experiment were investigated with state anxiety questionnaires and cortisol measures. Results showed that narratives of traumatic experiences were less coherent than narratives of turning point memories. However, contrary to our predictions, coherence, and, in particular, thematic coherence, related positively to anxiety levels. Possibly, particular types of thematic coherence are a non-adaptive form of coping, which reflect unfinished attempts at meaning-making and are more similar to continuous rumination than to arriving at a resolution. Furthermore, coherence at baseline could not buffer against the impact of trauma on anxiety levels in this study. Contrary to our hypotheses, social support did not have the intended beneficial effects on coherence, neither on well-being. Multiple explanations as to why our support manipulation remained ineffective are suggested. Remarkably, lower cortisol levels at baseline and after writing about the turning point memory predicted higher coherence in the trauma narratives. This may suggest that the ability to remain calm in difficult situations does relate to the ability to cope adaptively with future difficult experiences. Clinical and social implications of the present findings are discussed, and future research recommendations on the relations between narrative coherence, social support, and trauma resilience are addressed. (shrink)