ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2018, Vol. 26 ›› Issue (12): 2192-2203.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2018.02192

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The cause of search for meaning in life: Life affirming or deficit correcting

LI Zhanhong1, ZHAO Mengjiao2, LIU Huiying3, LIU Yanan3(), PENG Kaiping1   

  1. 1. Department of Psychology, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
    2. School of Public Management, Zhengzhou University, Zhengzhou 450000, China
    3. School of Education, Zhengzhou University, Zhengzhou 450000, China
  • Received:2017-06-22 Online:2018-12-15 Published:2018-10-30
  • Contact: LIU Yanan


The search for meaning in life refers to the motivation and effort in understanding one’s own life, finding or establishing life purpose, or accomplishing life significance. Unfortunately, consensus is still lacking on its cause. Deficit correcting hypothesis holds that, meaning search primarily originates from its absence or deficit, and once meaning restored, the search would decay. As opposed, Life affirming hypothesis maintains that, meaning search stems from the motivation to consolidate and strengthen life experience, and therefore the effort is always incessant. This article discusses the evidence, deficiencies and applicable situations of above two perspectives, and on this base proposes an "antecedent factor model" to account for the determinants of search for meaning in life. This model hypothesizes meaning need as the premise of meaning search, and believe the motive to search for meaning would arise as long as the current "meaning level" is perceived to be lower or higher than the original state. Future research should develop multidimensional meaning search scales, strengthen experimental research, and explore factors that influence meaning search judgment.

Key words: meaning in life, search for meaning, life affirming, deficit correcting

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