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
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.