Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 373–388

On the meaningfulness of behavior: An expectancy x value approach

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s11031-012-9316-3

Cite this article as:
van Tilburg, W.A.P. & Igou, E.R. Motiv Emot (2013) 37: 373. doi:10.1007/s11031-012-9316-3


Our research examines people’s concept of ‘meaningful behavior’ from an expectancy x value perspective. Specifically, we argue that people consider two elements when inferring the meaningfulness of behavior: the value of the goals that the behavior relates to and the degree to which the behavior is useful for the achievement of these goals. A series of five studies demonstrates that behavior is considered to be ‘meaningful’ if it is highly instrumental for a highly valued goal. Our expectancy x value approach offers a straightforward yet crucial perspective of how people infer whether or not everyday life behaviors are meaningful to them. The implications of our findings for research on meaningfulness, meaning-regulation, and sense making are discussed.


Meaning Value Instrumentality Self-regulation 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of LimerickCastletroyRepublic of Ireland
  2. 2.Tilburg UniversityTilburgThe Netherlands

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