Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 191–212 | Cite as

Need for Meaning, Meaning Confusion, Meaning Anxiety, and Meaning Avoidance: Additional Dimensions of Meaning in Life

  • Hong Zhang
  • Zhiqin Sang
  • Changkai Chen
  • Jiawei Zhu
  • Weijing Deng
Research Paper

Abstract

Two aspects of meaning in life have drawn much attention in previous research: presence of meaning and search for meaning. We proposed four additional aspects concerning individuals’ thoughts and feelings about meaning in life: need for meaning, meaning confusion, meaning avoidance, and meaning anxiety. We developed items to measure these dimensions. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis indicated that the data fit the factors well. Convergent and discriminant validities of the four dimensions were demonstrated though their distinct patterns of correlations with other variables, such as personality traits, need satisfaction, personal aspirations, life satisfaction, anxiety and depression. Moreover, cluster analysis revealed that individuals could be divided into meaningful groups according to these dimensions, with each group demonstrating unique psychological features. Implications for future studies on meaning in life are discussed.

Keywords

Meaning in life Need for meaning Meaning confusion Meaning avoidance Meaning anxiety 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This research is supported by Grant from the National Natural Science Foundation of China allocated to the first author (Grant No. 31400899). The authors thank Dr. Rebecca Schlegel for her valuable comments on a previous version of this article.

References

  1. Alter, A. L., & Hershfield, H. E. (2014). People search for meaning when they approach a new decade in chronological age. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111, 17066–17070. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1415086111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Battista, J., & Almond, R. (1973). The development of meaning in life. Psychiatry, 36, 409–427. doi: 10.1521/00332747.1973.11023774.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beaumont, S. L. (2009). Identity processing and personal wisdom: An information-oriented identity style predicts self-actualization and self-transcendence. Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research, 9, 95–115. doi: 10.1080/15283480802669101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Borgen, F. H., & Barnett, D. C. (1987). Applying cluster analysis in counseling psychology research. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 34, 456–468. doi: 10.1037/0022-0167.34.4.456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brislin, R. W. (1970). Back-translation for cross-cultural research. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 1, 185–216. doi: 10.1177/135910457000100301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burroughs, J. E., & Rindfleisch, A. (2002). Materialism and well-being: A conflicting values perspective. Journal of Consumer Research, 29, 348–370. doi: 10.1086/344429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Crumbaugh, J. C., & Maholick, L. T. (1964). An experimental study in existentialism: The psychometric approach to Frankl’s concept of noogenic neurosis. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 20, 200–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Derogatis, L. R., Lipman, R. S., & Covi, L. (1973). SCL-90. Psychopharmacology Bulletin, 9, 13–28.Google Scholar
  9. Duckworth, A. L., Steen, T. A., & Seligman, M. E. (2005). Positive psychology in clinical practice. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 1, 629–651. doi: 10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.1.102803.144154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Emmons, R. A. (2003). Personal goals, life meaning, and virtue: wellsprings of a positive life. In C. L. M. Keyes & J. Haidt (Eds.), Flourishing: Positive psychology and the life well-lived (pp. 105–128). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Emmons, R. A., & Paloutzian, R. F. (2003). The psychology of religion. Annual Review of Psychology, 54, 377–402. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.54.101601.145024.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Everitt, B. S., Landau, S., & Leese, M. (2001). Cluster analysis (4th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Frankl, V.E. (1963). Man’s search for meaning: An introduction to logotherapy. New York, NY: Washington Square. (Original work published 1946).Google Scholar
  14. Frankl, V. E. (1969). The will to meaning: Foundations and applications of logotherapy. New York, NY: New American Library.Google Scholar
  15. Fredrickson, B. L., Grewen, K. M., Coffey, K. A., Algoe, S. B., Firestine, A. M., Arevalo, J. M., et al. (2013). A functional genomic perspective on human well-being. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110, 13684–13689. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1305419110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fry, P. S. (1998). Spousal loss in late life: A 1-year follow-up of perceived changes in life meaning and psychosocial functioning following bereavement. Journal of Personal & Interpersonal Loss, 3, 369–391. doi: 10.1080/10811449808409711.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gagné, M. (2003). The role of autonomy support and autonomy orientationin prosocial behavior engagement. Motivation and Emotion, 27, 199–223. doi: 10.1023/A:1025007614869.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gosling, S. D., Rentfrow, P. J., & Swann, W. B. (2003). A very brief measure of the Big-Five personality domains. Journal of Research in Personality, 37, 504–528. doi: 10.1016/S0092-6566(03)00046-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Grouzet, F. M. E., Kasser, T., Ahuvia, A., Fernandez-Dols, J. M., Kim, Y., Lau, S., et al. (2005). The structure of goal contents across 15 cultures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 800–916. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.89.5.800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hicks, J. A., & King, L. A. (2009). Positive mood and social relatedness as information about meaning in life. Journal of Positive Psychology, 4, 471–482. doi: 10.1080/17439760903271108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hittner, J. B., May, K., & Silver, N. C. (2003). A Monte Carlo evaluation of tests for comparing dependent correlations. The Journal of General Psychology, 130, 149–168. doi: 10.1080/00221300309601282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hofstede, G. (1980). Culture’s consequences: International differences in work-related values. BeverlyHills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  23. Jim, H. S., Purnell, J. Q., Richardson, S. A., Golden-Kreutz, D., & Andersen, B. L. (2006). Measuring meaning in life following cancer. Quality of Life Research, 15, 1355–1371. doi: 10.1007/s11136-006-0028-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. M. (1993). A dark side of the American dream: Correlates of financial success as acentral life aspiration. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 410–422. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.65.2.410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. M. (1996). Further examining the American dream: Differential correlates of intrinsic and extrinsic goals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 280–287. doi: 10.1177/0146167296223006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kunzendorf, R.G., & Maguire, D. (1995). Depression: The reality of ‘no meaning’ versus the delusion of negative meaning. Unpublished manuscript, Lowell: University of Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  27. Lambert, N. M., Stillman, T. F., Hicks, J. A., Kamble, S., Baumeister, R. F., & Fincham, F. D. (2013). Tobelong is to matter sense of belonging enhances meaning in life. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39, 1418–1427. doi: 10.1177/0146167213499186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McGregor, I. U., & Little, B. R. (1998). Personal projects, happiness, and meaning: On doing well and being yourself. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 494–512. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.74.2.494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Milligan, G. W., & Cooper, M. C. (1985). An examination of procedures for determining the number of clusters in a data set. Psychometrika, 50, 159–179. doi: 10.1007/BF02294245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nisbett, R. E., Peng, K., Choi, I., & Norenzayan, A. (2001). Culture and systems of thought: Holistic versus analytic cognition. Psychological Review, 108, 291–310. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.108.2.291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Park, C. L. (2010). Making sense of the meaning literature: an integrative review of meaning making and its effects on adjustment to stressful life events. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 257–301. doi: 10.1037/a0018301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pavot, W., Diener, E., Colvin, C. R., & Sandvik, E. (1991). Further validation of the satisfaction with life scale: Evidence for the cross-method convergence of well-being measures. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 71–75.Google Scholar
  33. Pedhazur, E. J., & Schmelkin, L. P. (1991). Measurement, design, and analysis: An integrated approach. Hillside, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  34. Reker, G. T. (1992). Manual: Life attitude profile-revised. Petersborough, Ontario: Student Psychologists Press.Google Scholar
  35. Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rosso, B. D., Dekas, K. H., & Wrzesniewski, A. (2010). On the meaning of work: A theoretical integration and review. Research in Organizational Behavior, 30, 91–127. doi: 10.1016/j.riob.2010.09.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68–78. doi: 10.1037/0003-066x.55.1.68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2001). On happiness and human potentials: a review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 141–166. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.52.1.141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. (1996). Psychological well-being: Meaning, measurement, and implications for psychotherapy research. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 65, 14–23. doi: 10.1159/000289026.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Scheier, M. F., Carver, C. S., & Bridges, M. W. (1994). Distinguishing optimism from neuroticism (and trait anxiety, self-mastery, and self-esteem): a reevaluation of the life orientation test. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 1063–1078. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.67.6.1063.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Schlegel, R. J., & Hicks, J. A. (2016). Reflections on the scientific study of meaning in life. Journal of Constructivist Psychology,. doi: 10.1080/10720537.2015.1119080.Google Scholar
  42. Schlegel, R. J., Hicks, J. A., Arndt, J., & King, L. A. (2009). Thine own self: True self-concept accessibility and meaning in life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 473–490. doi: 10.1037/a0014060.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Schnell, T. (2009). The sources of meaning and meaning in life questionnaire (SoMe): Relations to demographics and well-being. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4, 483–499. doi: 10.1080/17439760903271074.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schnell, T. (2010). Existential indifference: Another quality of meaning in life. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 50, 351–373. doi: 10.1177/0022167809360259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sheldon, K. M., & Kasser, T. (2008). Psychological threat and extrinsic goal striving. Motivation and Emotion, 32, 37–45. doi: 10.1007/s11031-008-9081-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sjöström-Strand, A., & Fridlund, B. (2007). Stress in women’s daily life before and after a myocardial infarction: A qualitative analysis. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 21, 10–17. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6712.2007.00433.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Stark, R., & Liu, E. Y. (2011). The religious awakening in China. Review of Religious Research, 52, 282–289.Google Scholar
  48. Steger, M. F., Frazier, P., Oishi, S., & Kaler, M. (2006). The meaning in life questionnaire: Assessing the presence of and search for meaning in life. Journal of Counseling Psychology,. doi: 10.1037/0022-0167.53.1.80.Google Scholar
  49. Steger, M. F., & Kashdan, T. B. (2007). Stability and specificity of meaning in life and life satisfaction over one year. Journal of Happiness Studies,. doi: 10.1007/s10902-006-9011-8.Google Scholar
  50. Steger, M. F., Kawabata, Y., Shimai, S., & Otake, K. (2008). The meaningful life in Japan and the United States: Levels and correlates of meaning in life. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 660–678. doi: 10.1016/j.jrp.2007.09.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Steger, M. F., Oishi, S., & Kashdan, T. B. (2009). Meaning in life across the life span: Levels and correlates of meaning in life from emerging adulthood to older adulthood. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4, 43–52. doi: 10.1080/17439760802303127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Tu, M. S., & Chiou, C. P. (2007). Perceptual consistency of pain and quality of life between hospice cancer patients and family caregivers: A pilot study. International Journal of Clinical Practice, 61, 1686–1691. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-1241.2007.01347.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Van Tongeren, D. R., Green, J. D., Davis, D. E., Hook, J. N., & Hulsey, T. L. (2016). Prosociality enhances meaning in life. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 11, 225–236. doi: 10.1080/17439760.2015.1048814.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Vickberg, S. M. J., Bovbjerg, D. H., DuHamel, K. N., Currie, V., & Redd, W. H. (2000). Intrusive thoughts and psychological distress among breast cancer survivors: Global meaning as a possible protective factor. Behavioral Medicine, 25, 152–160. doi: 10.1080/08964280009595744.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Waterman, A. S. (1993). Two conceptions of happiness: Contrasts of personal expressiveness (eudaimonia) and hedonic enjoyment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 678–691. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.64.4.678.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 1063–1070.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. World Values Survey Association. (n.d.). World values surveys six-wave integrated data file, 2010–2014 [dataset]. Retrieved March 3, 2015, from http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org.
  58. Zhang, H., Sang, Z., Chan, D. K. S., Teng, F., Liu, M., Yu, S., et al. (2016). Sources of meaning in life among Chinese University students. Journal of Happiness Studies, 17, 1473–1492. doi: 10.1007/s10902-015-9653-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, School of Social and Behavioral SciencesNanjing UniversityNanjingChina

Personalised recommendations