2011 Presentation - Current Research in Existential Psychology


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Stauner, N. (2010). Current research in existential psychology. Presented in the Proseminar for Current Research in Personality Psychology, November 4, University of California, Riverside.

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  • Intro to existentialism & existential psychologyRelationship of meaning-seeking to meaning-havingTheories of sources of meaningGoals & valuesRelationship of meaning (and seeking) to goals & valuesRelationships of meaning & seeking to personality traitsImplications for theory and researchDirections to Nirvana
  • If this is your reaction to a review of existential theory, I don’t blame you, and neither would Jean-Paul Sartre, who thought this is in fact a symptom of authentic living. Sartre’s role in existentialism is a bit like Freud’s in psychology. When people hear “existentialism,” they probably think of Sartre first, because he made his claims very grandiose and somewhat upsetting.[before next]:Why such anguish? Why is responsibility so bad? Here’s another quote I didn’t have room for: “All existing things are born for no reason, continue through weakness and die by accident…It is meaningless that we are born; it is meaningless that we die.” That’s the quote. Perhaps we can call this the ultimate null hypothesis.
  • Sartre’s version of existentialism was neither the final product nor the original.[advance]Over 2 millennia ago, Socrates made a very strong case for an inquisitive lifestyle.His student Plato wrote of the search for knowledge as a matter of responsibility, but the kind of meaning he was concerned with was thought of as a rationally objective reality.The subjective aspects of human experience became a central issue in the philosophical movement of existentialism, in which people like Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, & Heidegger were major figures.William James may have been the first psychologist to take an existentialist viewpoint, though this was still well before existentialism was called “existentialism.”
  • A few generations later, Maslow applied existential theory to a different aspect of motivation: not our freedom from predetermination, but in fact our apparent predisposition toward inquisitiveness.Rollo May edited a book in which Maslow appeared again. In Maslow’s chapter, he answered his own question about existentialism as a psychologist: “What’s in it for us?” May himself focused more on the search for meaning as a response to existential threat. (Spurred on by his own life-threatening illness.)Victor Frankl’s book made one of the most extreme claims about the search for meaning following his own extreme experience with the threat of death in a Nazi concentration camp.Eric Klinger wrote of more ordinary existential threats and how average people can suffer from existential vacuum caused by disillusionment with mundane, everyday concerns, like boredom and failing relationships.Irvin Yalom outlined these universal existential threats as broadly, abstractly, and succinctly as anyone to date.Roy Baumeister wrote of the kinds of experiences that give people a sense of meaning.I’ll say more about these three later.Finally, Gary Reker has authored a modern theory of existential meaning that is the most falsifiable and psychometrically friendly.In this chapter of his book on the topic, he also summarized these empirical arguments for the importance of meaning in life as a psychological construct. They’re pretty good ones too, so even if you doubt that Frankl was right, well, maybe he should be!
  • For the purpose of my research, I’ve been using a content-free approach to assessing the global sense of meaning in life.What I mean is:
  • Here’s what this looks like on a scatterplot.Note the nice pretty curve formed by the confidence interval around the regression line. There’s no way to put a straight line inside.
  • [Life problems Baumeister quote:]“The meaning of life is a problem for people who are not desperate, people who can count on survival, comfort, security, and some measure of pleasure.”This isn’t to say the other people have plenty of meaning; it’s that they’ve got bigger problems. Kind of a throwback to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.[…][before next]:So this already gives some vague sense of what meaning as a global, content-free construct might be all about to participants.Now before I talk about my research on what “meaning” means to my participants, let me present a few existing theories on it.
  • First, here are the reasons existentialists say we have trouble finding meaning.Frankl outlined some general sources of meaning: what we do with our lives, where that takes us, and how we feel about it all. Frankl says each contributes to the sense of meaning.Klinger begins with incentive theory, which is a bit of a contrast with Frankl, who wrote more like a motivational drive theorist.This isn’t to say Klinger necessarily disagreed with Frankl though. Here’s an interesting quote:“The human brain cannot sustain purposeless living. It was not designed for that. Its systems are designed for purposive action, and when that is blocked, they deteriorate, and the emotional feedback from idling those systems signals extreme discomfort and motivates the search for renewed purpose and hence meaning.”Baumeister then offers his existential shopping list, on which the first item is purpose.Reker claimed that meaning has cognitive components (such as the attitudes and beliefs that form our cultural worldview), motivational components (such as goals and values), and affective components. More recent research has suggested that people in positive moods are more open to the perception of meaning, and even better at discriminating between meaningful and meaningless activities.Reker himself came up with a theory for discriminating between sources of meaning in terms of the depth of their meaningfulness.Next I’d like to present some even more specific theories about sources of meaning.
  • Klinger actually collected empirical evidence for these sorts of sources, both in a checklist and open-ended listing format.In describing the literature on sources of meaning, Reker lists these as the most common cited. Anyone who knows Shalom Schwartz’ list of universal values might see some familiar things here…but I’m not the first to draw that connection.
  • May explained the existentialist concept of anxiety as a threat to a value. This presages some of the work done by Terror Management Theorists on death threats prompting the defense of one’s values.Reker puts it quite plainly that…”[read quote]“Even Schwartz himself had some things to say about meaning and values when he introduced his circumplex theory. This was something he said about the difficulty of pinning down spirituality in the factor space of values. Note that he wasn’t just talking about spirituality here, and that he says “pursuit.”And speaking of pursuits…
  • If you know my lab’s research, you knew this was coming.See? There it is. Goals!This is why I’m interested in goals and values. A lot of people have argued that they may be what meaning is made of: the elementary particles composing the purpose molecule, if you will…or purpose nebula, if you prefer!
  • So before I get to decomposing these nebulous concepts of meaning and purpose, here’s a primer on my previous research and the instruments I’m using.
  • I’m using a q-set approach for values so that people can’t just call every value they see important, which is a common problem with value rating tasks. My hope is that being forced to choose only five values as most important makes those choices a little more “meaningful.”
  • I presented this poster in Europe this summer!One thing I gotta show you real quick:
  • This gargoyle was rockin’ out on the roof of the church that’s built inside the biggest castle in the world![advance]Everybody knows gargoyles listen to KISS.
  • Not claiming these are all significant (in fact, only those larger than .16 are with 95% certainty when tested individually)The ones with big effect sizes are religious.There are also some on the negative side that fit Reker’s theory of meaning.
  • Not claiming these are all significant (in fact, only those larger than .16 are with 95% certainty when tested individually)I think these value correlates connote a bit of self-importance in those searching for meaning. They seem to want fame and power, but don’t really care about other people or their culture, let alone nature! No wonder the meaning of their own lives is so important.[before next]:You’ll see why I also included these null results for financial goals and values on the next slide.I’m going to put off most of my interpretations until after the next batch of results: remember, I’ve still gotta talk about personality traits. But as for the sparse results with goals and values, here’s another nice quote from Klinger.
  • This is him responding to that earlier quote from Baumeister about people with life problems not worrying about meaning. Here Klinger is suggesting that people who have goals that suit their values don’t even need to think about meaning.Maybe to undergraduates, goals and values are more meaningful than “meaning!”[advance]In this second paragraph, he’s saying that people who search for meaning are more likely to be in really bad situations like the one Viktor Frankl survived, or they’re just pursuing extrinsic rewards. That part also suits the results I just showed you regarding the negative relationship between financial values and the presence of meaning…but recall that there was no such negative relationship with the search for meaning, which is what Klinger is really talking about here! Maybe it’s not up to the theorists to decide which values are extrinsic.[before next]:In any case, this is a situationist argument for the origins of existential searching motivation.In this last part of my presentation, I’m going to go over my results on the personality side.
  • Before I started this study, I knew something was up with the religious goals, so I decided to focus on that with the spare room in my survey.[example items, if time]:Intrinsic: “I enjoy reading about my religion.”Extrinsic personal: “I pray mainly to gain relief and protection.”Extrinsic social: “I go to church mostly to spend time with my friends.”Quest: “As I grow and change, I expect my religion also to grow and change.”BA: “Some existentialists claim that when people die they cease to exist: I agree.”PF: “I find inner strength and/or peace from my prayers or meditations.”Universality: “All life is interconnected.” “I believe that there is a larger meaning to life.”Connectedness: “I am concerned about those who will come after me in life.”STI: “My spirituality helps me to understand my life’s purpose.”
  • Correlations to all the religious variables are pretty similar to what’s been found before.As far as I know, the spiritual correlates are new discoveries, and the effect sizes are pretty good. Evidently all aspects of spirituality have plenty to do with meaning, but only some relate to the search. I’ll discuss some of these further in a minute.The big five correlates are a little stronger than usual, but not outside the range of previous findings. There were correlations like these in a Czech sample I heard about at the European conference this summer.The life satisfaction correlation is also quite typical.
  • Next I tried multiple regression predicting the presence of meaning. Only these three variables remained significant.Note that extrinsic social religiousness is showing a little suppression effect here.[advance]If we look at its bivariate correlations with the other variables, the positive correlation with spiritual transcendence may explain the suppression. As meaning increases, extrinsic social religiosity goes down, and spiritual transcendence goes up. But as spiritual transcendence goes up, extrinsic social religiosity also goes up! I’m not sure why these are positively correlated, but it’s not really my point.In any case, controlling for spiritual transcendence brings out the negative effect of extrinsic social religiosity on meaning.The same suppression effect appears on spiritual transcendence if we take out life satisfaction.The positive effect of transcendence on meaning fits with Reker’s theory that transcendent sources of meaning are of the highest level. The negative effect from extrinsic religiousness fits with Klinger’s quote, if we take it to mean that extrinsically motivated activities in general are bad for meaning.I should mention that this is all assuming there is a directional effect on presence caused by these variables, which may not be the case.
  • As for those peculiar negative correlations between meaning and friendship goals and values, I found that spiritual connectedness moderates the relationship. Since I had to split my sample in half to get these correlations, the difference is only marginally significant…but if it’s real, it makes sense. Evidently pursuing and valuing friendship is only bad for meaning when one feels relatively disconnected from people. Maybe these people are extrinsically motivated to find friends…or maybe they just really need more friends!Speaking of goals and values, remember those positive relationships with the religious ones? Those seem to have a moderator too: religious affiliation. I didn’t have enough people of each religion to do decent significance tests, but since half my participants were Christian, I could at least split the sample in half again that way. Note before I show you the next slide that when I compare Christians to non-Christians, I’m mostly comparing them to fairly irreligious people, who compose the second largest subsample.
  • With Christians, the spirituality vs. finance distinction among goals and the spiritualism vs. secularism distinction among values seem to be more existentially relevant than with non-Christians. This is not only to say that religiousness is more existentially important to Christians, as also indicated by the correlations with intrinsic religiosity, but that materialism and hedonism are apparently more existentially dissatisfying to them.Also, the negative correlates among goals and values that may reflect social problems (friendship and self-assertion) seem to be more impactful among non-Christians.Again, none of these differences are significant with such small samples, except the difference in the pleasure value and religious quest. Religious quest actually reverses and approaches significance as a positive predictor of meaning for non-Christians, whereas Christians seem to feel more existentially comfortable when not questioning their religion too much.
  • So who is doing all this existential questioning? Do religious people avoid it in general? No. Look again at the near-zero correlation of search with intrinsic religiosity. Then look at the other correlations...Remember how this negative relationship between presence and search was stronger when controlling for the curvilinear effect of presence? Well, there’s even more to it than that.Presence relates positively to belief in an afterlife. Belief in an afterlife has been shown to reduce mortality salience effects, so Terror Management Theory argues that it is psychologically protective against the threat of death, which is a threat to meaning according to existential theory. Thus belief in an afterlife may relate to meaning because it protects against the existential threat of death. Alternatively, the relationship may be mediated by meaning's established relationship with religiousness in general, which reappears in my data.Note next that belief in an afterlife correlates positively with the search for meaning as well. While this may seem like a bit of a paradox, and there's little if any theory out there to help explain it, I think belief in an afterlife may raise as many existential questions as it answers. For instance, "How can I make sure I'm going up, and not down?" "What will it REALLY be like when I get there?" And, "What then is the real point of this existence?" In this manner, an answer to one existential question may provoke many new existential questions, thus driving the overall search for meaning.Of course, these correlations don’t establish any causality or even directionality, so many other explanations are possible…but if I assume there are directional effects on presence, I can also test for suppression in multiple regression.[advance]Again, the positive correlations between belief in an afterlife (BA for short) and both search and presence, given the negative relation between search and presence, suggests that both BA and presence may suppress each other's correlations with search. In other words, as BA rises, both presence and search should rise, but as presence rises, search should fall--at least, beyond a certain minimum, as I established earlier.[advance]A multiple regression predicting search reveals mutual, modest suppression effects between BA and the linear term for presence. Hence both of these variables' effects on search are likely to be a bit stronger than their bivariate correlations.
  • A similar principle may apply to spiritual connectedness. As shown here, the connectedness subscale of the Spiritual Transcendence Scale correlates positively with the presence of meaning. Both positive and existential psychological theory recognize the importance of social connections in psychological well-being, so this is no surprise. Remember that Reker's theory on levels of meaning put social relationships at the second highest level as a source of meaning. Yalom also emphasized the existential threat posed by a sense of isolation, which the people low on connectedness may be expressing here. Again, these are just a few of many possible explanations for the correlation.As for the correlation between search and connectedness, Sartre's existential theory may actually offer one very clear explanation. If people who feel spiritually connected to others also feel responsible for the well-being of others, as Sartre argued we all should, then maybe those high on connectedness also feel more existential anxiety because of this responsibility, as Sartre did. Maybe people high on connectedness also run into Yalom’s threat of freedom if they struggle to find a way to help everyone as much as they want to. In Baumeister’s theory, these would be the people that need to go shopping for efficacy. In any case, it's clear that a sense of connectedness is related to existential curiosity.Again, the positive correlations between connectedness and both search and presence, given the negative relation between search and presence, suggest that both connectedness and presence may suppress each other's correlations with search.[advance]And voila. Moresuppression effects between connectedness and the linear term for presence. So, both of these variables' effects on search are probably stronger than their bivariate correlations, assuming there is such directional causality.
  • One more case of this kind: openness to experience.Again, positive correlations with presence and search,[advance]And again, suppression effects.This too makes sense in terms of ego identity development. According to this theory, people develop truer senses of identity by exploring their identities and questioning them. People high on openness are certainly more curious, so it’s no surprise if they’re more motivated to question the meaning of their lives. Since people high on openness are also good at handling complexity, their questioning might actually allow them to pass through what’s known as ego identity moratorium to achieve more meaning as well. In cross-sectional data like this, that wouldn’t appear as a correlation between search and presence: it would appear as a correlation between openness and presence.Whether or not that’s the case here, controlling for openness should at least emphasize the negative relationship between the search for meaning and the presence of meaning among more open people. Those who are open but aren’t searching have probably already achieved their sense of identity, while those who are searching are in ego identity moratorium, and still full of existential doubt.I’ve got to admit though, this one feels iffy. The correlation between openness and presence jives with the correlation between dogmatism and presence, which was stronger in previous studies.
  • Last, I just want to show how adding the curvilinear effect of meaninglessness on search reduces the already meager relationship of neuroticism with search to insignificance. Here there is further evidence that neurotic people experience more meaninglessness, but also evidence that much of what neuroticism explains about search can be better explained by other variables. Granted, the insignificance of the remaining effect is probably as much a matter of sample size as it is a matter of effect size, but if we trust the effect size, the point stands: the search for meaning is not as much an expression of neuroticism as some psychotherapists have argued.
  • No, really, THIS is my last table of results. These are all those predictors of search I just talked about, finally together in one big scary multiple regression. Everything is still significant, but most of the suppression has gone away…except in presence, which is sporting quite a big effect now. So, all else being equal, apparently people possessing meaning really don’t search for it after all.
  • In closing, let me offer a quick recap.Hedonism & materialism = lowest: pleasure & financial values negatively relatedSelf-actualization = 2nd lowest: career achievement goals and values unrelatedOther-directedness = 2nd highest: helping value & moral goals = weak pos. correlation; spiritual connectedness strongly relatedTranscendence = highest: religious goals & values, spiritual transcendence strongest relatedReligious correlates also support Baumeister’s theory of the religious “value gap”Belief in an afterlife’s correlation with meaning supports the Yalom’s theory on the existential threat of death (not to mention all the Terror Management Theorists out there, some of whom have already pointed this out).The correlation of connectedness with meaning also supports Yalom’s theory on isolation.For those not-so-isolated, the correlation of connectedness with search also supports Sartre’s “anguish” problem and Yalom’s freedom threats. Likewise, the meaninglessness threat appears in the strong effect of meaninglessness on search…though this argument is substantially weakened by the quadratic effect.[advance]Many goals and values seem to have very little to do with the overall experience of meaningfulness, and those that do may be borrowing their relationships from trait-like motives such as religiousness and hedonism or materialism. Or the information goals and values contribute to meaning may not be through their importance. Maybe attainment, which is harder to assess.Theorists claiming everyone searches for meaning must rest their claims on the subconscious. Clearly not everyone consciously cares. Also, the things that characterize the people who do care seem to be aspects of personality rather than a common situation. If tough circumstances or extrinsic motives cause searching, other correlates should’ve emerged (e.g., health problem & immediate finance goals).As for what parts of personality do predict search, it’s not all about neuroticism. For many people, especially the afterlife-oriented, spiritually connected, and open-minded, searching for meaning is just a necessary part of life.
  • Call out for collaborators
  • My advisor, for keeping my statistical feet on the ground and out of my mouthMy RAs, for making this research possibleThe people who support me outside my workAnd as my thanks for listening, don’t think I’d forgotten…
  • Here is your roadmap to Nirvana!
  • Collaborators?
  • Not claiming these are all significant (in fact, only those larger than .16 are with 95% certainty when tested individually)
  • 2011 Presentation - Current Research in Existential Psychology

    1. 1. Current Research inExistential Psychology Nick Stauner Personality Assessment Lab UC Riverside
    2. 2. Outline1. Intro to existentialism & existential psychology2. Relationship of meaning-seeking to meaning-having3. Theories of sources of meaning  Goals & values4. Relationship of meaning (and seeking) to goals & values5. Relationships of meaning & seeking to personality traits6. Implications for theory and research7. Directions to Nirvana
    3. 3. NauseaSartre (1965). “Existentialism is a Humanism” “Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself. Such is the first principle of existentialism.” “Thus, existentialism’s first move is to make every man aware of what he is and to make the full responsibility of his existence rest on him. And when we say that a man is responsible for himself, we do not only mean that he is responsible for his own individuality, but that he is responsible for all men.” “The existentialists say at once that man is anguish…Of course, there are many people who are not anxious; but we claim that they are hiding their anxiety, that they are fleeing from it.”
    4. 4. The life worth living Socrates (469-399 BCE) “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Plato  Thought it humanity’s duty to seek knowledge of the good and true.  Believed in objective forms of perfection Kierkegaard (1835) “The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do: the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die.” James (1870)  “My first act of free will is to believe in free will.”
    5. 5. Existential Psychology Maslow (1943). “A Theory of Human Motivation”  Beyond self-actualization: the desires to know & understand May (1959). Existential Psychology Frankl (1963). Man’s Search for Meaning  The “will to meaning” is “the primary motivational force” Klinger (1977). Meaning and Void Yalom (1981). Existential Psychotherapy Baumeister (1991). Meanings of Life Reker (2000). “Theoretical perspective, dimensions, and measurement of existential meaning”  Meaning promotes psychological AND physical wellness, adaptation  Absence relates to neurosis, depression, suicidality, substance abuse
    6. 6. Presence & search The Meaning in Life Questionnaire (MLQ)  Steger, Frazier, Oishi, & Kaler (2006). Journal of Counseling Psych, 53.  5 statements assessing presence of meaning E.g., “My life has no clear purpose.”  5 statements assessing search for meaning E.g., “I am searching for meaning in my life.” Steger, Kashdan, Sullivan, & Lorentz (2008)  “People lacking meaning search for it.” (r = -.16 to -.20)  Correlation varies across samples from -.01* to -.39 †  Relation moderated by basic motive dispositions (+) More positive r when high: BAS, autonomy, openness, & rumination (- ) More negative r when high: BIS & relatedness*Steger & Kashdan (2007) †Kashdan & Steger (2007)
    7. 7. A closer look Stauner, Stimson, & Boudreaux (2010)  238 undergraduates mean age = 18.8 years 74% female Table 1. Simple statistics of MLQ subscales Subscale Mean (7 pt. index) St. Dev. Cronbach’s α Presence 4.80 1.33 .88 Search 4.58 1.38 .84  Weak negative correlation (r = -.22, p = .0005) Table 2. Regression statistics predicting Search from Presence Variable Estimate SEE β p r Intercept 4.87 .11 .21 Presence -.33 .07 -.31 <.0001 -.22 Presence² -.16 .04 -.21 <.0001 -.19  Adjusted R = .34. Tolerance = .90. Presence is centered.
    8. 8. The Curve of the QuestFigure 1.Quadratic regression of presence of meaning predicting search for meaning Search for Meaning Presence of Meaning Fit Method: Loess Regression
    9. 9. Implications of the curve1. Those lacking meaning don’t necessarily seek it.  Motivation may be suppressed by depression (r = -.48)1, alienation (r = -.24)2, or cognitive overload due to life problems  Rock-bottom meaning = existential cynicism / apathy / naivety?2. Those possessing meaning really don’t seek it.  Satiety / complacency may diminish motivation  Life satisfaction has divergent relationships with meaning (r = .30 to .56) vs. search (r = -.22 to -.38)1  Daily pleasure decreases daily search for meaning (Kashdan & Steger, 2007)  Sky-high meaning = ego identity foreclosure?  Divergent correlations with presence vs. search:2 1. Dogmatism = .43 / -.21 2. Intrinsic Religiosity = .42/ -.17 3. Right-Wing Authoritarianism = .35 / -.14 4. Religious Quest = -.18/ .261 Steger et al. (2006) 2 Steger et al. (2008)
    10. 10. Meanings of Life Yalom (1981). Existential Psychotherapy  Death, freedom, isolation, & meaninglessness Frankl (1963). Man’s Search for Meaning  Sources of meaning: creative, experiential, attitudinal Klinger (1977). Meaning & Void  Incentive -> affect -> value -> goal striving -> progress ≈ meaning Baumeister (1991). Meanings of Life  “Existential Shopping List”: purpose, value, efficacy, & self-worth Reker & Chamberlain (2000). Exploring Existential Meaning  Cognitive, motivational, & affective components  Levels of depth: hedonism, self-actualization, service, transcendence
    11. 11. Purpose particles Klinger (1977). Meaning & Void  Friends, communicating, understanding, family, faith, education, spouse, leisure, nature, happiness, security, “things in general,” job, responsibility, success, helping, loving, exploring, growth, goals/plans Reker & Chamberlain (2000). Exploring Existential Meaning “Most common sources of meaning cited in literature”:  Relationships, religious/creative/leisure/hedonistic activities, altruism, growth, meeting needs, financial security, achievement, legacy, values/ideals, traditions/culture, causes, possessions, nature
    12. 12. Purpose particles May (1967). Psychology and the Human Dilemma  Anxiety = “The apprehension cued off by a threat to some value which the individual holds essential to his existence as a self.” Reker & Chamberlain (2000). Exploring Existential Meaning “Values and beliefs are the bedrock for sources of meaning.” Schwartz (1992): “It may be that answering the question of ultimate meaning in life is a basic human need that finds expression in a set of values. However…people may find meaning through the pursuit of other types of values.”
    13. 13. Purpose particles Klinger (1998). In The Human Quest for Meaning “The degree and kind of meaning a person finds in life derives from the emotionally compelling qualities of the person’s goal pursuits.” Emmons (1999). The Psychology of Ultimate Concerns “Goals appear to be prime constituents of the meaning-making process. As motivational constructs, goals are an important source of personal meaning and provide structure, unity, and purpose to people’s lives…Goals are used to construct meaning.”
    14. 14. The structure of goals The Personal Goal Questionnaire*  65 items based on a comprehensive taxonomy of undergrads’ goals  Importance ratings summed into 20 parcel scores by goal theme† Parcel structure: 3 bipolar factors 1. Spirituality vs. Finance (+) Religious, moral, and community presence goals (- ) Immediate financial goals 2. Intimacy vs. Self-Enablement (+) Romantic, immediate financial, and family-building goals (- ) Self-assertion and negative affect control goals 3. Achievement vs. Enjoyment (+) Academic and long-term financial goals (- ) Friendship and enjoyment-seeking goals*Howell, Hershey, Markey, & Ozer (2001) †Stauner, Stimson, & Ozer (2009)
    15. 15. The structure of values The Values Q-Set*  25 items based on value, goal, and meaning measures  Sorted by relative importance into 5 groups of 5 each 3 bipolar principal components 1. Spirituality vs. Secularism (+) Religious observation & exploration, helping others, morality (- ) Financial security, pleasure, careerism, independence, and health 2. Competence vs. Intimacy (+) Creativity, skill, nature, and knowledge & wisdom (- ) Romantic love, family, and raising children 3. Individualism vs. Collectivism (+) Fame or popularity, respect or power, and legacy or impact (- ) Understanding people, cultural heritage, and friendships*Stauner, Boudreaux, & Ozer (2010)
    16. 16. Goals, values, & meaning Stauner & Ozer (2010)  149 undergraduates mean age = 19.3 71% female
    17. 17. GARGOYLE OF ROCK Stauner & Ozer (2010)  149 undergraduates mean age = 19.3 71% female tongue axe
    18. 18. Goals, values, & meaning Stauner & Ozer (2010)  149 undergraduates mean age = 19.3 71% female Table 3. Correlations of Presence with Importance Ratings Goal Parcel Meaning r Value item Meaning r Spirituality vs. Finance .30 Spiritualism vs. Secularism .26 Religious .28 Living in accordance with religion .26 Moral .17 Explore/reinforce religious identity .19 Community presence .13 Helping people .11 Immediate finances -.09 Financial security -.20 Having a pleasurable life -.25 Choosing and pursuing a career .00  Self-assertion -.22 Being or becoming independent -.13 Being healthy and energetic .09  Friendship -.16 Gaining / maintaining friendships -.18
    19. 19. Goals, values, & search Table 4. Correlations of Search with Importance Ratings Goal Parcel Search r Value item Search r Find direction in life .52 Competence vs. Intimacy -.17 Religious -.18 Experience/appreciate nature -.24 Independence .16 Individualism vs. Collectivism .17 Interpersonal skills .14 Fame, popularity, & renown .19 Becoming respected & powerful .18 Leaving a legacy/having an impact .09 Gaining or maintaining friendships .07 Understanding cultural heritage -.10 Understanding people & culture -.17 Immediate finance .05 Financial security .06
    20. 20. Too busy to bother? Klinger (1998). In The Human Quest for Meaning “[The meaning of life] is not a problem for people who for any other reason find themselves persistently engaged in striving for valued goals. The more introspective among them, especially when someone else raises the issue, may well be inclined to formulate for themselves one or more consistent life purposes, but probably most would not otherwise be bothered. “On the other hand, when people find themselves spending inordinate amounts of time in activities that they do not value, or find themselves suffering for no immediately evident good purpose, they are likely to raise the question: What for? On anecdotal grounds, it appears that this commonly occurs when people are induced to work largely to avoid punishment rather than for appetitive reasons (as in concentration camps), or when they are working for appetitive goals whose value is extrinsic (as in working largely to earn money)...”
    21. 21. Personality measures Age-Universal I/E-R (I/E-R; Gorsuch & McPherson, 1989)  Intrinsic and extrinsic religiosity  Sub-subscales: Extrinsic social and extrinsic personal Religious Quest (RQ; Batson & Schoenrade, 1991) Belief in Afterlife (BA; Osarchuk & Tatz, 1973) Spiritual Transcendence Scale (STS; Piedmont, 1999)  Prayer fulfillment  Universality  Connectedness Spiritual Transcendence Index (STI; Seidlitz et al., 2002) Big Five Inventory (BFI; John, Donahue, & Kentle, 1991) Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS; Diener et al., 1985)
    22. 22. Table 5. Correlations of personality measures with MLQVariable Measure Presence SearchIntrinsic religiosity I/E-R .30 -.03Extrinsic religiosity I/E-R .10 .12 Extrinsic personal I/E-R .22 .05 Extrinsic social I/E-R -.10 .16Belief in an afterlife BA .27 .20Religious quest RQ -.01 .30Spiritual transcendence index STI .38 -.09Prayer fulfillment STS .34 .06Connectedness STS .29 .32Universality STS .30 .31Extraversion BFI .20 -.09Agreeableness BFI .12 -.00Conscientiousness BFI .35 -.06Neuroticism BFI -.22 .16Openness to experience BFI .17 .13Life satisfaction SWLS .42 -.07*Correlations significant at p < .01 level bolded. N = 145-149 (BFI / SWLS N = 237)
    23. 23. Predictors of presenceTable 6a. Regression predicting presence from personality Variable Estimate SEE β p Tolerance r Intercept 2.64 .43 .08 Spiritual trans. (STI) .33 .07 .36 <.0001 .91 .38 Life satisfaction .33 .07 .32 <.0001 .96 .42 Extrinsic social -.26 .12 -.17 .0242 .94 -.10 Adjusted R = .52Table 6b. Correlations of MLQ-P, SWLS, I/E Extrinsic social, & STI Variable Presence Life satisfaction Extrinsic social Life satisfaction .39 Extrinsic social -.10 -.04 Spiritual trans. (STI) .38 .19 .22*Correlations significant at p < .025 level bolded. N = 149
    24. 24. Meaning moderators Presence correlation with friendship goals/values moderated by spiritual connectedness  Upper 50% in connectedness: r = -.02  Lower 50% in connectedness: r = -.26 / -.29  Connectedness more significant than goals/values in regression  Value interaction term insignificant  Goal parcel insignificant; goal interaction term significant Correlation w/ religious goals/values moderated by religion  Insufficient ns for NHSTs in non-Christian affiliations  Participants’ religious affiliations: 1. 50% Christian 2. 28% Atheist / agnostic / irreligious 3. 12% Buddhist 4. 6% Muslim 5. 4% Other
    25. 25. Moderations by religionTable 7. Presence of meaning correlations by religious affiliationVariable correlated with presence r (Christians) r (non-Christians)Spirituality vs. Finance .35 .18 Religious goals .30 .16 Immediate financial goals -.27 .02Self-assertion goals -.12 -.31Friendship goals -.06 -.24Spiritualism vs. Secularism .32 .11 Living in accordance with religion .33 .09 Explore/reinforce religious identity .14 .13 Having a pleasurable life -.37 >* -.03Gaining and maintaining friendships -.06 -.26Intrinsic religiosity .35 .15Religious quest -.31 <* .21Bolded correlations significant (p < .05) n = 72-75 n = 71-74
    26. 26. Predictors of the searchTable 8a. Correlations of MLQ, BA, and intrinsic religiosity* Variable Presence Search Belief in afterlife Search for meaning -.17 Belief in an afterlife .27 .20 Intrinsic religiosity .30 -.04 .55Table 8b. Regression predicting search from presence & BA Variable Estimate SEE β p Tolerance r Intercept 3.65 .46 .24 Presence -.33 .08 -.32 .0001 .81 -.17 Presence² -.13 .04 -.17 .0019 .83 -.17 Belief in an afterlife .36 .12 .23 .0042 .91 .20*Correlations significant at p < .025 level bolded. N = 145-149
    27. 27. Predictors of the searchTable 9a. Correlations of MLQ & STS-Connectedness* Variable Presence Search Search -.17 Connectedness .29 .32Table 9b. Regression predicting search from MLQ-P & STS-C Variable Estimate SEE β p Tolerance r Intercept 2.49 .53 .24 Presence -.35 .08 -.34 <.0001 .82 -.17 Presence² -.13 .04 -.17 .0012 .85 -.17 Connectedness .72 .15 .35 <.0001 .90 .32*Correlations significant at p < .025 level bolded. N = 148-149
    28. 28. Predictors of the searchTable 10a. Correlations of MLQ & openness to experience* Variable Presence Search Search -.22 Openness .17 .14Table 10b. Regression predicting search from MLQ-P & BFI-O Variable Estimate SEE β p Tolerance r Intercept 3.30 .50 .22 Presence -.37 .07 -.35 <.0001 .87 -.22 Presence² -.17 .04 -.22 <.0001 .90 -.19 Openness .46 .14 .20 .0016 .97 .14*Correlations significant at p < .04 level bolded. N = 237-238
    29. 29. Predictors of the searchTable 11a. Correlations of MLQ & neuroticism* Variable Presence Search Search -.22 Neuroticism -.22 .16Table 11b. Regression predicting search from MLQ-P & BFI-N Variable Estimate SEE β p Tolerance r Intercept 4.31 .36 .20 Presence -.30 .07 -.29 <.0001 .85 -.22 Presence² -.16 .04 -.20 <.0001 .90 -.19 Neuroticism .18 .11 .10 .1057 .95 .16*Correlations significant at p < .015 level bolded. N = 237-238
    30. 30. Predictors of the searchTable 12. Regression predicting search from MLQ, STS, BA, & BFIVariable Estimate SEE β p Tolerance rIntercept .60 .77 .16Presence -.43 .08 -.41 <.0001 .76 -.17Presence² -.13 .04 -.17 .0011 .81 -.17Belief in afterlife .30 .12 .19 .0091 .91 .20Connectedness .63 .15 .31 <.0001 .86 .32Openness .33 .16 .14 .0425 .90 .14 Adjusted R = .51
    31. 31. What does it all mean? Supportive evidence for many existential theories  Regarding presence  Levels of meaning (Reker, 2000)  The post-religious “value gap” (Baumeister, 1991)  Existential threats of death & isolation (Yalom, 1981)  Regarding search  Connectedness --(?)--> responsibility ------> “anguish” (Sartre, 1965)  Yalom’s threats of freedom, & meaninglessness Challenges to others  Meaning via goals and values complicated by depth of meaning  “Will to meaning” is not explicitly universal, nor situational  Search ≠ neuroticism
    32. 32. Future Research Validation of Values Q-Set  Open-ended listing approach to values assessment  New populations: community, internet, criterion, experimental?  Tests of convergent validity with sources of meaning measures  Tests of predictive validity with goal concordance & life satisfaction Disentangling life meaningfulness from life satisfaction  Criterion groups  Religious leaders, philosophy faculty, volunteers, activists, elderly  Longitudinal experiments  Meaning manipulation: log daily work toward purpose • Nostalgia, life narratives, uncertainty, cultural worldview defense, PA, etc.? • Isolation? Freedom? Meaninglessness?  Quasi-experiment: new parents-to-be
    33. 33. Credits Dan Ozer The RAs  Tanya Selvam  Andrew Stimmler  Elizabeth Castaneda  Rachel Cheong  Christian Lorenzo My friends and my folks And for you, as promised…
    34. 34. Future Research Validation of Values Q-Set  Open-ended listing approach to values assessment  New populations: community, internet, criterion, experimental?  Tests of convergent validity with sources of meaning measures  Tests of predictive validity with goal concordance & life satisfaction Disentangling life meaningfulness from life satisfaction  Criterion groups  Religious leaders, philosophy faculty, volunteers, activists, elderly  Longitudinal experiments  Meaning manipulation: log daily work toward purpose • Nostalgia, life narratives, uncertainty, cultural worldview defense, PA, etc.? • Isolation? Freedom? Meaninglessness?  Quasi-experiment: new parents-to-be
    35. 35. Predictors of the search Stauner & Ozer (2011)Table 5. Regression predicting search from cognitive traitsVariable Estimate SEE β p Tolerance rIntercept -1.23 .85 .16 .1494Presence -.32 .08 -.33 .0002 .62 -.17Presence² -.13 .04 -.17 .0012 .75 -.17Belief in afterlife .57 .13 .37 <.0001 .64 .20Connectedness (C) .59 .15 .30 <.0001 .82 .32Openness .41 .15 .19 .0211 .88 .14Religious goals (R) -.43 .12 -.31 .0003 .66 -.18C x R interaction .41 .16 .20 .0093 .89 .08Neuroticism .19 .12 .11 .1180 .87 .20 Adjusted R = .59