The benefits of contemplating tragic drama on self-regulation and health

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8 Scopus citations


Although drama exposure has been examined in the context of health promotion programs, the underlying mechanisms of reflecting on drama have not been established. The degree to which drama contemplation leads to cognitive changes (increased processing, self-compassion and emotional self-efficacy) and improved well-being was examined in the present research. An experiment was conducted in which young adults (n = 148) were randomly assigned to experience and write reflectively on (i) drama via Hollywood movie clips, (ii) drama via scripts or (iii) to perform a control task. Writing content was analyzed for word use. At baseline and 4-week follow-up measures, participants self-reported self-compassion, emotional self-efficacy, physical symptoms, general health, depressed mood and anxiety. Using structural equation modeling, indirect effects of drama contemplation were found. Tragic drama exposure was associated with word use indicative of increased cognitive processing. The use of greater insight words was related to increased emotional self-efficacy, which in turn was associated with improved psychological and general health, whereas discrepancy word use was associated with increased self-compassion, which was in turn linked to better psychological well-being. Conversely, greater use of causation and certainty words was associated with a marginal decrease in self-compassion and psychological well-being. The persistence of drama has long been related to its capacity to enhance individuals' understanding of the human condition. This study helps explain the connection between reflecting on drama and benefits to self-regulation and health. Implications of drama processing as an inexpensive and accessible adjunct to health promotion interventions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-199
Number of pages13
JournalHealth Promotion International
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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