Researching Meaning in Life Brings
I recently took a popular psychology test that measures whether or
not you experience meaning in your life, as well as how engaged and
motivated you are in finding or deepening your life’s meaning. It’s
called the Meaning in Life Questionnaire, developed by Michael F.
Steger, a psychology professor at Colorado State University.
I feel my life is meaningful. I’ve never felt my life to be meaningless.
My family and work, along with a variety of activities and
engagements I enjoy, in general, give my life meaning. I’m gracious to
be alive and well, and I do try to focus on becoming a better human
being overall. In the grand scheme of things, life has deep meaning
for me as an individual and I am actively engaged in what I find to be
meaningful pursuits; and, by the way, I’m not religious.
How I Scored
The Meaning in Life Questionnaire scored me relatively low on the life-
with-sincere-meaning scales. The results revealed that I may feel lost;
I don’t experience too much love and joy; I may often feel anxious,
nervous, sad and depressed; and people who know me would more
than likely describe me as a worrying sort who is not socially active.
Such a dismal prognosis – Yikes! However, I can only agree with the
not-so-socially-active part. In my early old age, I am learning toward
gerotranscendence. The rest of the results are simply not accurate.
To be clear, it was noted on the questionnaire to “please keep in
mind that these are really only guesses and should not in any way be
considered diagnostic.” In addition, Steger co-authored an article in
2010 (The Relevance of the Meaning in Life Questionnaire to Therapeutic
Practice: A Look at the Initial Evidence) published in The International
Forum for Logotherapy, where he wrote that research has supported
the questionnaire’s “high reliability of scale scores,” and that it “can
reliably provide information to therapists [especially logotherapists]
about levels of experience and sought meaning among their clients.”
At the same time, in the article’s conclusion Steger noted that the
questionnaire had its limitations and “does not capture idiosyncratic,
complex, and rich aspects of meaning in life.” Hmm…
I started thinking that Steger – a respectable scholar who is a
prominent researcher in the field of psychology – might need to
reevaluate the validity of his questionnaire. Then again, maybe I was
an anomaly, which is a place I typically inhabit. Maybe it was how I
felt only at the moment when I answered the 3 to 5-minute
questionnaire with 10 items – by rating them on a 7-point scale from
absolutely untrue to absolutely true – and was really not indicative of
my overall true colors. I should have answered the questions a
second time, perhaps a day or two later, to see if I’d garner the same
results, but I did not.
Undark Brings Light
Then I read a recently published article in Undark, headlined
Scientists Rarely Admit Mistakes. A New Project Wants to Change That,
and my suspicions about the questionnaire started to lean more
heavily toward the possibility of the questionnaire being bogus.
Undark is “a non-profit, editorially independent digital magazine
exploring the intersection of science and society” that publishes
articles I have always found to be extraordinarily thought-provoking.
The gist of the Scientists Rarely Admit Mistakes article is as follows:
Some researchers have gone so far as to suggest that most
published research findings are false. A 2016 survey by Nature of
more than 1,500 scientists found that more than 70 percent of
researchers failed to successfully reproduce another researcher’s
work and more than half failed to reproduce their own. Psychology
is one of the most affected disciplines, with studies suggesting that
wearing red makes one more attractive, or that smiling makes
people happier, proving difficult for follow-up researchers to
The article went on to introduce a related project, not surprisingly
managed by a team of psychology professors, that is geared toward
possibly rectifying this issue. It’s called the Loss in Confidence Project.
Its basic essence is to have researchers in the field of psychology
publicize announcements admitting when they have lost confidence
in any of their studies “for any reason.” This is done to “potentially
help prevent other researchers from wasting resources conducting
replications or extensions that may be unlikely to succeed.” The FAQ
section of the site has more information.
Entering the Rabbit Hole
This concerned me greatly, because, in recent months, I have been
reading dozens of articles written by leading psychologists from
around the world. Most have been about several broad topics that
have implications for the aging population: eudaimonic well-being
(EWB), hedonic well-being (HWB), subjective well-being (SWB),
meaning and purpose in life, life satisfaction, and various other
related topics – all published going back to the 1980s (and some
earlier) up through today. These are topics in the realm of psychology
– many of which are now being slotted under the umbrella term of
“positive psychology” and “happiness” and turned into best-selling
books – that have been consistently growing in popularity these
Many of these academic articles have raised a “pointless bull shit”
flag in my mind. In my opinion, there is an overabundance of energy-
wasting common sensical facts of life over described and over
analyzed in numerous articles featuring page after page of long-
winded, esoteric writing. Now, of course, not all of the articles bring
this kind of reaction – many are enlightening about the human
condition – but I’d say, roughly speaking, at least 50 percent would fit
snugly within the category of unnecessary BS.
Oh the meaninglessness of it all!
Is it time to go back to more philosophical and spiritual studies?
Thanks for stopping by,
“You will never
live if you are
looking for the
- Albert Camus