Predictors of insight and catharsis among readers who use literature as a coping strategy
The current study aimed to explore the mechanisms of the therapeutic function of literature for non-clinical subjects. It was hypothesized that narrative feelings (identification with the character and feeling absorbed in the narrative world) and aesthetic feelings (attention to and appreciation of stylistic features) would have a positive impact on feelings of catharsis and insight after reading. An online survey was conducted, asking non-clinical respondents (N = 55) of two different age groups (18–35 and 55–80) to report on a literary work that helped them to get through a difficult time in their lives. For age group, no relevant significant differences were found. Results indicate that while narrative feelings have a positive impact on both catharsis and insight, aesthetic feelings do not. Aesthetic feelings correlate with absorption and with experiencing more thoughts during reading. Responses to the open questions indicate that for a subgroup within the sample (N = 6), comfort in aesthetic beauty was the most important therapeutic feature. Responses to the open questions furthermore indicated the importance of being able to relativize one’s own problems through reading literature.
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