What do people find most meaningful? How representations of the self and the world provide meaning in life

Costin, Vlad and Vignoles, Vivian L (2021) What do people find most meaningful? How representations of the self and the world provide meaning in life. Journal of Personality. ISSN 0022-3506

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Abstract

Objective
Recent theories propose that global meaning in life (MIL) is based on feelings of coherence, purpose, and existential mattering. MIL has also been linked to mental representations—e.g., beliefs, values, attitudes, and identities—that serve as ‘meaning frameworks’ for interpreting the world and oneself. Combining these proposals, we predicted that beliefs, values, attitudes, and identities would foster sense of MIL to the extent that they provide feelings of coherence, purpose, and existential mattering.

Method
Using multilevel path analysis, we tested within-person associations of coherence, purpose, and existential mattering with sense of MIL across three studies (Study 1: 208 US MTurk workers; Study 2: 106 UK university students; Study 3: 296 from a UK nationally-representative Prolific sample). We explored the generality of these associations across mental representation types and individual differences.

Results
Participants derived greater MIL most strongly from mental representations that provided sense of purpose, followed by existential mattering. Sense of coherence was less robustly related to MIL across mental representation types and religious orientation.

Conclusions
Integrating prior theorizing on MIL, we conclude that mental representations function as ‘meaning frameworks’ to the extent that they provide feelings of purpose, mattering, and, sometimes, coherence.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Meaning in life, Purpose, Coherence, Existential mattering, Meaning frameworks
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 26 Oct 2021 08:26
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2021 09:15
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/102486

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