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Surprising Science

Join a Book Club to Boost Self-Esteem

Turns out groups help us define our individual identities, which boosts our sense of self.

Feeling a little down in the self-esteem? Jolanda Jetten of the University of Queensland led a study that has found evidence that joining a book club or a sports group may help. Heck, why not join both?

Jetten and her team took participants from a range of demographics to conduct their research: elementary-school children, retirees, and former residents of a homeless shelter. The researchers started by asking participants how they felt about themselves, then moved on to inquire if they belonged to any groups, and, if so, what those group meant to them.

In each survey, Jetten and her team found a consistent relationship between self-esteem and group participation. However, this result could just indicate that those with higher self-esteem tend to join more social groups. But researchers say that’s not the case.

They write that their study “shows that the effects of multiple important group memberships on personal self-esteem are not reducible to number of interpersonal ties.” That’s not to say going to the movies alone every once in a while is a bad thing, more that just having “membership in multiple important groups boosts personal self-esteem because people take pride in, and derive meaning from, important group memberships.”

The researchers are confident that this study will help pave the way for more research into how individuals measure their own self-worth.

They concluded:

“Our work speaks to a basic assumption in social identity theorizing — that group membership has the potential to provide members with a positive identity and that this has beneficial effects for self-esteem.”

Read the complete study at PLOS One.

Photo Credit: Jemal Countess / Getty Images


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“The written word, obviously, is very inward, and when we’re reading, we’re thinking. It’s a sort of spiritual, meditative activity. When we’re looking at visual objects, I think our eyes are obviously directed outward, so there’s not as much reflective time. And it’s the reflectiveness and the spiritual inwardness about reading that appeals to me.”