Manual Building, Defending, and Regulating the Self: A Psychological Perspective

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On the other hand, there is evidence of the harmful effects of unsupported bibliotherapy in the case of people with eating disorders, for example Troscianko, More systematic empirical research is needed on the effects — both positive and negative — of different forms of bibliotherapy in different samples, both healthy and those suffering from different types of mental illnesses. In contrast, the potential health benefits of fiction material are largely ignored. In addition, even though the positive effects of fiction reading have been tentatively associated with increased well-being Brown and Ryan, , the actual relationship between fiction reading and an enhanced sense of well-being has not been empirically investigated.

Let alone, the potential role that absorption plays in this relationship. For example, creative bibliotherapy advocates often underline the importance of choosing the right text, which commonly leads to the use of books exclusively from the literary canon. A case can be made, however, for using genre fiction — such as fantasy, young adult or science fiction — over the literary canon, as they seem to be genres more conducive to absorption.

At this point, however, we do not know what is most beneficial to a reader: a feeling of absorption, a feeling of identification with a character and thus necessarily a close match between book and reader, the literary quality of the text that is read, or the reflection on what was read, either in a group or as a solitary act.

It is important to reach a better understanding of bibliotherapy in the digital age, as there is, as of yet, no consensus about the possible negative or positive effects of digitalization on reading and communication about reading. On the one hand, there are researchers who argue that digitalization and especially the pervasiveness of social media and smartphones in our daily lives has detrimental effects on our cognitive abilities and by extension our sense of well-being e.

On the other hand there are those that emphasize the positive potentials of social networking for specific purposes, such as increasing reading pleasure and motivation e. Particularly pertinent to the points made in this paper, are the arguments of those that warn against the harmful effects of digitalization on our attention span or our ability to concentrate in general.

Again, this would be especially important to know if we find that absorption plays an important role in mediating the potential beneficial effects of reading on mental health and overall subjective well-being. Social media platforms like Goodreads are online environments where millions of people come to share their love for the written word. Members come together to discuss what they read, what they classify as good or bad literature, and they recommend books to one another or even try their hand at writing fan fiction.

Mental health care is quite expensive and still not freely available to everyone. Online platforms such as Goodreads provide an opportunity for an enormous number of people to engage in bibliotherapy completely free of charge. The ultimate goal of the line of research set out in this paper, should be to first extensively test the possible merits and pitfalls of bibliotherapy — and the effects of reading literature on psychological well-being in general; and second, to integrate, on the basis of this research, bibliotherapy applications in online social media platforms such as Goodreads or Wattpad, that are focused on shared reading and writing.

I believe this could have compelling large-scale health benefits of a preventive nature that are relatively inexpensive. Other than expanding the empirical research on the effects of bibliotherapy on mental health in a systematic way, there are some areas where we can improve research into the effects of reading on well-being in general.


For example, most empirical studies so far only use short stimulus materials i. Furthermore, absorbed reading has never been studied in daily life, which leaves the field of absorption research with a considerable lack, as absorption is an experience that is hard to simulate in a lab.

Finally, experimenters have focused on short-term effects i. In sum, research on the long-term effects of absorbed fiction reading on subjective well-being in a natural context is greatly needed. Researchers in the field of empirical literary studies are asking the right questions, but so far few of their results have been extrapolated to practical applications. Moniek M. E-mail: moniek [dot] kuijpers [at] unibas [dot] ch.

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On Building, Defending, and Regulating the Self: A Psychological Perspective

Ryan, Carr, The shallows. What the Internet is doing to our brains.

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Balint, and M. Doicaru editors. Narrative absorption. Benjamins, pp. Kuiken, P. Campbell, and P. Kuiken, L.

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