While it is commonsensical that we read stories to generate pleasant emotions (enjoyment), the fact that we also read stories which generate sadness had been deemed more puzzling. Recent studies have stressed the potential role of "eudaimonic" (meaning-making) motives in preferences for sad media, particularly sad films. The current survey study (. N=. 343) explored the role meaning-making motives (insight and personal growth) play in a preference for sad books relative to other motives, like catharsis beliefs and wanting to experience emotions (meta-emotions). The study also took into account gender and age. Results indicate that both meaning-making motives and meta-emotions predict a preference for sad books. This pattern was compared to preferences for specific book genres. A preference for thrillers was associated with meta-emotions, while a preference for poetry was associated with a need for insight. However, no specific genre was associated with both meta-emotions and insight. As sad books appear to address both needs for feeling and meaning-making, they serve a unique function for readers.

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doi.org/10.1016/j.poetic.2015.06.004, hdl.handle.net/1765/86886
Poetics : Journal of Empirical Research on Culture, the Media and the Arts
Department of Media and Communication

Koopman, E. (2015). Why do we read sad books? Eudaimonic motives and meta-emotions. Poetics : Journal of Empirical Research on Culture, the Media and the Arts, 52, 18–31. doi:10.1016/j.poetic.2015.06.004