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Culture and mood disorders: the effect of abstraction in image, narrative and film on depression and anxiety
  1. James Carney
  1. Arts & Humanities/Centre for Culture and Evolution, Brunel University London, Uxbridge UB8 3PH, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr James Carney, Arts & Humanities/Centre for Culture and Evolution, Brunel University, Uxbridge UB8 3PH, UK; carneyjp{at}


Can cultural representations be used to therapeutic effect in the treatment of mood disorders like depression and anxiety? This article develops a theoretical framework that outlines how this might be achieved by way of mid-level cultural metrics that allow otherwise heterogeneous forms of representation to be grouped together. Its prediction is that abstract representations—as measured by Shannon entropy—will impact positively on anxiety, where concrete representations will positively impact on depression. The background to the prediction comes from construal level theory, a branch of social psychology that deals with the effects of abstraction on psychological distance; the types of cultural representations analysed include image, narrative and film. With a view to evaluating the hypothesis, the article surveys the empirical literature in art therapy, creative bibliotherapy and cinema therapy.

  • Medical Humanities
  • Narrative Medicine
  • Psychotherapy
  • Art
  • Film

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See:

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  • Contributors I have authored 100% of this article.

  • Funding This study was funded by Wellcome Trust (Grant number: 205493/Z/16/Z).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement There are no data in this work.

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