Research Paper

Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 693-715

First online:

Measuring Search for Meaning: A Factor-Analytic Evaluation of the Seeking of Noetic Goals Test (SONG)

  • Stefan E. SchulenbergAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, The University of Mississippi, UniversityUniversity of Mississippi Clinical-Disaster Research Center (UM-CDRC), University Email author 
  • , Brandy J. BaczwaskiAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, The University of Mississippi, University
  • , Erin M. BuchananAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Missouri State University

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This study’s primary purpose was to examine the factor structure of the 20-item Seeking of Noetic Goals (SONG) test via exploratory and confirmatory factor-analytic procedures. An additional objective was to report on the measure’s incremental validity in comparison to the Search scale of the Meaning in Life Questionnaire (MLQ), an alternative measure of search for meaning. This study utilized data from three samples of American undergraduates (N = 908) from a medium-sized southern university. Factor analysis supported a two-factor model of the SONG, with patterns of correlation further suggesting the measure assesses distinct constructs. Multi-group confirmatory factor analysis indicated similar scale structure and item answering in terms of gender. Overall, the first factor yielded reliable scores that correlated significantly and in the expected direction with measures of well-being and psychological distress. The second factor did not yield reliable scores nor did it correlate significantly with many of the other measures administered. However, both factors were shown to significantly predict scores from measures of depression and general psychological distress after controlling for MLQ Search scale scores. We consider the data with respect to SONG scoring and interpretation, and discuss implications of these data for future research.


Logotherapy Search for meaning Factor analysis Psychometrics Seeking of Noetic Goals test Meaning in Life Questionnaire Positive psychology