Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Dr. Dean Cruess, Ph.D.; Dr. Colin Wayne Leach, Ph.D.; Dr. Roxane Cohen Silver, Ph.D.

Field of Study



Master of Science

Open Access

Open Access


Models of meaning making and post-traumatic growth contend that traumatic events are catalysts for significant and long-lasting change in a person’s worldview—that is, their beliefs about social, metaphysical, theological, and political reality. Nearly all tests of this contention have employed retrospective and cross-sectional methods. However, the limitations inherent in these designs preclude causal conclusions. The current study represents the first longitudinal, laboratory-based experimental examination of belief change following trauma exposure using the trauma film paradigm. Findings reveal that the trauma film paradigm can successfully induce posttraumatic affective responses with live news coverage of a mass trauma (i.e., the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing), and that these affective responses are associated with retrospective accounts of having reexamined core beliefs. However, neither experimental condition effected significant directly observable change in beliefs. We consider our findings through the lens of alternative theoretical accounts of posttraumatic response (i.e., meaning making theory, narrative theory, and terror management theory). Finally, we conclude by recommending that researchers employ the trauma film paradigm in future research on meaning making and posttraumatic change processes.

Major Advisor

Dr. Crystal Park, Ph.D.