By Brad Bell
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 books. 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 manipulated 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 long-term.
Forest, J. J. (1987). Effects on self-actualization of paperbacks about psychological self-help. Psychological Reports, 60, 1243-1246.