This study explored the extent to which meaning in life (i.e., presence and search) relates to different aspects of psychological well-being in American and Turkish students. It also assessed whether presence of meaning moderated the relationship between search for meaning and psychological well-being. American (N =377) and Turkish (N =225) undergraduates completed demographics and self-report measures. Simple and moderated moderation analyses were conducted. In both samples, presence and search were negatively associated. In addition, presence of meaning was positively associated with measures of psychological well-being, while search was negatively associated. Presence of meaning buffered the relationship between search for meaning and psychological well-being, but only in the Turkish sample. American and Turkish undergraduates may typically search for meaning when presence of meaning is low. Presence of meaning appears to be adaptive across these two cultures, whereas search for meaning appears to be culturally-specific and may produce differential effects on psychological well-being.
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To date, research has focused primarily on the benefits of experiencing a sense of comprehensibility and purpose in life (George and Park 2014). However, significance, or the idea that one’s life “matters” in the grand scheme, contributes to a sense of meaning in life (e.g., Costin and Vignoles 2020; Schnell 2009) and, recently, a new measure has been designed to address this gap (George and Park 2017).
Because part of this data was collected for a larger study, we had different measures of depressive symptoms in the samples. CES-D scale scores were converted into BDI-II scores using conversion formulas developed by Gonzales and Jenkins (2014). As a sensitivity analysis, we also transformed BDI-II scores into CES-D equivalent scores and re-ran moderation analyses. Findings were highly similar in both sets of analyses. Results are reported in BDI-II metric.
This may be especially true in collectivistic societies that are also considered to be tight (i.e., societies that have clear social norms and limited tolerance of deviance from those norms). Turkey is considered to be tighter than the United States (Uz 2015), and this difference may also have implications for how the process of searching for meaning unfolds within these two countries. However, because we did not collect any data that would allow us to examine the reasons why our samples were actively searching for meaning, this question cannot be addressed and awaits future research.
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Fischer, I.C., Secinti, E., Cemalcilar, Z. et al. Examining Cross-Cultural Relationships Between Meaning in Life and Psychological Well-Being in Turkey and the United States. J Happiness Stud (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-020-00275-z
- Meaning in life
- Depressive symptoms