Positive affect and the experience of meaning in life

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2006 Jan;90(1):179-96. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.90.1.179.


Six studies examined the role of positive affect (PA) in the experience of meaning in life (MIL). Study 1 showed strong relations between measures of mood, goal appraisals, and MIL. In multivariate analyses, PA was a stronger predictor of MIL than goal appraisals. In Study 2, the most consistent predictor of the experience of meaning in a day was the PA experienced that day. Later, global MIL was predicted by average daily PA, rather than average daily MIL. Study 3 demonstrated no prospective relations between measures of MIL and PA over 2 years. In Study 4, priming positive mood concepts enhanced MIL. In Study 5, manipulated positive mood enhanced ratings of MIL for those who were not given an attributional cue for their moods. In Study 6, PA was associated with a high level of distinction between meaningful and meaningless activities. Results indicate that positive moods may predispose individuals to feel that life is meaningful. In addition, positive moods may increase sensitivity to the meaning-relevance of a situation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Attitude
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Social Behavior*