The Psychology of Books: Can Reading
Self-Help Books Increase Self-Actualization?
There are a significant number of self-help books. Some of these
books may be read by a large number of people. One important
question is whether there is any benefit of reading these self-help
One possible benefit of reading self-help books is an increase in
self-actualization. Self-actualization involves personal growth in
which a person achieves his or her true potential.
Self-actualization is part of Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory.
In Forest's (1987) experiment, participants read either no book,
or one of two self-help books. Also, whether participants
completed a pretest concerning self-actualization measures was
manipulted in the experiment. Some participants had a pretest,
and other participants did not have a pretest. All of the
participants were female. Only two self-actualization subscales
were used in the study. One of them was Time Competence, and
the other was Inner-directedness.
Forest (1987) found that posttest scores on the
Inner-directedness measure were influenced by whether
participants read a self-help book. On the average, participants
who read a self-help book had higher posttest scores on the
Inner-directedness measure than participants who read no book
(this was true for both self-help books). With respect to the Time
Competence measure, on the average, participants who read Book
1 had higher posttest scores on the Time Competence measure
than participants who read Book 2 or no book.
These findings suggest that reading some self-help books may
increase some dimensions of self-actualization.
However, it is unclear about the generality of the findings. We
do not know if there are some self-help books that would not
increase self-actualization. Also, it is not clear whether the effect
on self-actualization is relatively short-term, or whether it may be
Forest, J. J. (1987). Effects on self-actualization of paperbacks
psychological self-help. Psychological Reports, 60, 1243-1246.