Meaningfulness as Satisfaction of Autonomy, Competence, Relatedness, and Beneficence: Comparing the Four Satisfactions and Positive Affect as Predictors of Meaning in Life

Abstract

Positive affect (PA) has consistently been shown to predict meaning in life (MIL). In one of the first investigations to examine multiple predictors of MIL simultaneously, we tested in three studies the hypothesis that satisfactions associated with being benevolent and fulfilling psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness are more central predictors of MIL, and could explain the correlation between PA and MIL. Study 1, a cross-sectional survey, regressed the four suggested factors and PA simultaneously on MIL, showing that all four emerged as independent predictors, whereas PA and MIL were no longer connected. Study 2 looked at recollections of meaningful situations, showing that all four satisfactions and PA emerged as independent predictors of situational meaning. Study 3 used a diary method to show that daily fluctuations in autonomy, competence, relatedness, beneficence, and PA all simultaneously and independently predicted daily sense of meaning. However, a brief longitudinal study showed that whereas combined satisfaction of autonomy, competence, relatedness, and beneficence at T1 predicted general sense of MIL at T2, PA did not. Together, these studies show that the four satisfactions consistently emerge as independent predictors of both general and short-term meaning, in some situations even accounting for the relation between PA and general MIL.

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Martela, F., Ryan, R.M. & Steger, M.F. Meaningfulness as Satisfaction of Autonomy, Competence, Relatedness, and Beneficence: Comparing the Four Satisfactions and Positive Affect as Predictors of Meaning in Life. J Happiness Stud 19, 1261–1282 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-017-9869-7

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Keywords

  • Meaning in life
  • Self-determination theory
  • Benevolence
  • Positive affect