Tell Us Your Story: Investigating the Linguistic Features of Trauma Narrative


Linguistic features can predict several aspects of human behavior. Little is known, however, about whether syntactic, semantic and structural language features can also predict psychological disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The current study investigated whether the linguistic properties in trauma narratives written by survivors of a Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA), change as function of the intensity of PTSD symptoms. A short form diagnostic tool known as the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist (PCL) was used to determine the severity of participant PTSD symptomatology. Using a text capture paradigm participants were then asked to write a neutral narrative or a narrative that described their traumatic event. PCL scores were compared to linguistic variables from eight different computational linguistic algorithms. Results from this study suggested that the relative intensity of PTSD symptomatology affects syntactic, semantic, and structural aspects of the narrative.

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