UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

You had mail : a comparison of reflecting on positive and negative emails Kopperson, Caitlin Nicole


Self-reflection has long been viewed as a means to insight and well-being. However, the construction of the self in today’s digital world includes communication and actions undertaken online as well as “in real life,” creating an external memory of personal communication unchanged by time and retelling. The current study examined possible consequences of reflection using personal email archives when used in conjunction with written reflection on significant positive and negative events. Participants (N = 66) were assigned to three gender-stratified groups comprising positive, negative, and neutral experience conditions. In each group, participants recalled and reflected upon a personal event of corresponding quality, reading personal email conversations regarding the experience followed by writing about it. Measures of well-being, meaning, nostalgia, relationship perception, and emotional reactivity were completed before and after the reflective manipulation and at follow-up, administered electronically two weeks following. A measure of thought content was administered at post-test and follow-up only. Data analyses were conducted using multiple mixed-design ANOVAs. Results at post-test showed significant increases in negative affect, nostalgia, and positive meaning, as well as a significant decrease in presence of meaning in life. At follow-up, results revealed a significant decrease in emotional reactivity for participants in the negative experience condition only. Additionally, significant decreases in positive affect, nostalgia, and recounting-type thoughts were found at follow-up. Implications for future research and practice are discussed.

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