Title: Does Trauma Exposure Lead to More In-depth Processing of Daily Information?
Anna DiBlasio, Abigail Harrah, Curtis Coulter, and Erin Pavlic
Most people experience some traumatic event in their lifetime, such as sudden loss of a loved-one, a life-threatening illness or violent crime. This study assesses whether individuals’ lifetime trauma exposure is related to (a) the tendency to process information in-depth on a daily basis, (b) reports of posttraumatic growth, and (c) physical and mental health. Participants were 82 General Psychology students (84% Caucasian; 77% female; mean age 23.75, SD = 8.10) attending a large state university in northeastern Ohio. Lifetime trauma exposure was assessed using the Traumatic Life Events Questionnaire (Kubany et al., 2000; e.g., “Have you experienced the sudden and unexpected death of a close friend or loved one?”); participants’ tendency to process information in-depth on a daily basis was assessed using the Need for Cognition scale (Cacioppo et al., 1984; e.g., “The notion of thinking abstractly is appealing to me.”); posttraumatic growth was assessed using a scale of personal growth (Frazier et al., 2009; e.g., “I appreciate each day.”); and physical and mental health were assessed using a modified version of the SF-12 Health Survey (Ware et al., 1996; e.g., “In general, how would you rate your health?”). All scales had good reliability (alphas ranged from .69 to .91). Results indicated that more than 90% of the individuals in this sample reported experiencing at least one traumatic lifetime event (range = 0 to 13 events; mean number of events = 4.15, SD = 2.78). Pearson correlations revealed that the experience of a higher number of traumatic events was associated with a greater need for cognition (r = .22, p = .049), the need for cognition was associated with more personal growth (r = .27, p = .016), and more personal growth was associated with better mental health (r = .35, p = .001). Taken together, these findings suggest that although some individuals may process daily information at more of a superficial level, adjustment to trauma may lead individuals to process information in more depth on a daily basis. Moreover, this in-depth processing of information may lead to more personal growth and better mental health. These findings highlight avenues of possible future research centered on treatment for individuals having a difficult time adjusting to traumatic life events, with an emphasis on encouraging in-depth thinking about their experiences.
Dr. Patricia Tomich
Most people experience some traumatic event in their lifetime, such as sudden loss of a loved-one or violent crime. This study assesses relations between trauma exposure, the tendency to process information in-depth on a daily basis, reports of posttraumatic growth, and physical and mental health (n = 82; mean age = 23.75). Correlations indicated that the experience of more traumatic events was associated with more in-depth processing, in-depth processing was associated with more personal growth, and more personal growth was associated with better mental health (all r’s > .22; all p’s < .05). These findings highlight avenues of possible future research centered on treatment for individuals having a difficult time adjusting to traumatic events, with an emphasis on encouraging in-depth thinking about their experiences.