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Do materialism, intrinsic aspirations, and meaning in life predict students’ meanings of education?


Though there is a deep literature on factors that predict college attendance and on the effects of college attendance on students’ development, there has been little research on what education actually means to students themselves. This study was conducted to examine whether materialism, intrinsic aspirations, and the search for meaning in life predicted a set of ten meanings that students are known to associate with their education. Multiple regression analyses indicated that students who were high on materialism viewed their education as an opportunity to gain independence, a chance to establish relationships, and a source of stress. Individuals high on intrinsic aspirations were more likely to see education as a time for career preparation, gaining independence, exploring future life directions, learning, engaging in personal growth, establishing social relationships, and learning skills to make a difference in the world, but they were less likely to view education as an escape from future responsibilities. As expected, the findings also revealed that individuals who sought meaning in life viewed education as a way to gain independence, explore life directions, engage in personal growth, establish relationships, learn skills that will help change the world, and escape future responsibilities.

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Correspondence to Donna Henderson-King.

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Henderson-King, D., Mitchell, A.M. Do materialism, intrinsic aspirations, and meaning in life predict students’ meanings of education?. Soc Psychol Educ 14, 119–134 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11218-010-9133-z

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  • Meaning
  • Materialism
  • Intrinsic aspirations
  • Education
  • Undergraduate students