Rereading old books 'enhances the experience'
RETURNING to favourite old books or even seeing films for a second time actually enhances the experience, new research has found.
A recent study has shown many people benefit from rereading familiar stories as the encounter “reignites” their emotions and increases their knowledge.
The research found similar advantages can be gained from revisiting old haunts, such as a favourite beach abroad or a particular church or monument.
The repeated contact or reacquaintance resulted in a “renewed appreciation” of the experience and even provided mental health benefits, it emerged.
“Even though people are already familiar with the stories or the places, re-consuming brings new or renewed appreciation of both the object of consumption and their self,” the research found.
“Especially prone to reconsumption are hedonic experiences, sought for their rich emotional, cognitive, and sensorial responses.
“People should not hesitate to go back and re-read or re-view what they have already done. A once in a lifetime experience can easily appeal to people again.”
The study, entitled “The Temporal and Focal Dynamics of Volitional Reconsumption: A Phenomenological Investigation of Repeated Hedonic Experiences” was published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
Its authors Cristel (corr) Russell from the American University and Sidney Levy of the University of Arizona interviewed participants from both the United States and New Zealand.
Their questions centered around the pleasure gained from the “rereading of books, the rewatching of movies, and the revisiting of geographical places".
Previous research has focused on the kinds of repeat experiences that are habitual, addictive, or ritualistic, but their study looked at memories consumers consciously sought to experience again.
In broad terms the research found that people were generally keen to return to a well-thumbed book or to listen again to a favourite piece of music so they could gain a “richer and deeper insight” of the experience and increase their understanding.
Some participants hoped to evoke previous memories brought on by the “reconsumption” or even affirm - or sometimes invalidate - the impression left by an earlier experience. Others still, sought to share a favourite encounter with new people.
“For millennia, people have had books they can read again, fairy tales they can hear again, and places, monuments or mosques they can visit again,” the authors explained.
"The re-experience allows them not only to refresh their memory of the past experience but the recollection is accompanied by the discovery of new details.
“Therefore, the experience is different, even though it is repeated. By doing it again, people get more out of it.”
The research found that although some participants worried they would be considered odd for repeating consumption, many reported that repeat experiences led to heightened awareness and pleasure.
The study concluded: “Consumers gain richer and deeper insights into the reconsumption object itself but also an enhanced awareness of their own growth in understanding and appreciation through the lens of the reconsumption object.
“Given the immense benefits for growth and self-reflexivity, re-consuming actually appears to offer many mental health benefits.”