Examining the linguistic characteristics of youths' writing may be a promising method for detecting youth who are struggling. In this study, we examined linguistic patterns of adolescent responses to writing prompts in a large, well-powered trial of an evidence-based, digital single-session intervention teaching malleability beliefs about personal traits and symptoms (“growth mindset”). Participants who completed the intervention as part of a larger randomized control trial were included in this preregistered study (n = 638, https://osf.io/zqmxt). Participants’ responses were processed using Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count. We tested correlations between linguistic variables (i.e., linguistic distancing, positive affect, negative affect, insight, certainty), baseline outcome variables, post-intervention outcome variables, and 3-month post-intervention outcome variables. We also used Least Absolute Shrinkage and Selection Operator (LASSO) regression models to identify key predictors of treatment outcomes. As hypothesized, greater use of linguistic distancing was associated with lower levels of baseline hopelessness and higher levels of perceived agency. Additionally, per LASSO models including all linguistic variables, greater use of linguistic distancing predicted larger reductions in depressive symptoms from baseline to three-month follow-up. Linguistic distancing appeared to account for 27% of the variance in depression trajectories when also accounting for baseline depression.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Clinical Psychology
- Growth mindset
- Linguistic distancing
- Single-session intervention