Thursday Review: “Making Sense”

For something a little different, this February, the Thursday Reviews will be dedicated to a few of Richard Asher’s classic articles from the late 1950s:

It’s no wonder that Asher’s lecture titled “Making Sense” is devoted entirely to the use of language and its use in shaping how medical information is conveyed.

People have always known that language is powerful. Asher quotes a wide range of literature throughout the talk, among them the beginning of John’s Gospel, In the beginning was the word, and the story of Rumpelstiltskin. The idea that knowing something’s name gives one power over it is an old, old human belief. So much so, that the idea made it into a fairy tale some 4,000 years ago.1
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Thursday Review: “Forming a Story: The Health Benefits of Narrative”

Telling a story is good for your health

In the Journal of Clinical Psychology, James W. Pennebaker and Janel D. Seagal study a group of students instructed to write about a traumatic experience, and then measure both the mental and physical health outcomes of those students. The results were measured against a control group, who were instructed to write strictly descriptive passages.

The participants who wrote about a traumatic experience recorded significantly fewer visits to a doctor in the months following the exercises.

The authors also review studies across a wide range of demographic groups which reveal that similar exercises produce positive effects on blood markers of immune function, are associated with lower pain and medication use, are linked to higher grades in college, and are even associated with faster times to getting new jobs among senior-level engineers.
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