In Pursuit of Existential Meaning: Motivation to Search for Meaning Facilitates Experiential Purchases Over Material Purchases
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People are fundamentally motivated to search for meaning. What do people do when they want to find meaning in life? Despite the universality of humans’ searching for meaning, empirical research has yet sought answers to this question. Guided by theories and empirical evidence suggesting experiential purchases (buying life experiences) as having more existential values than material purchases (buying material possessions), the present research explored how the motivation to search for meaning influences preference for experiential purchases over material purchases. Using various methodologies (e.g., correlational, experimental), four studies tested the hypothesis that experiential purchases are preferred over material purchases as one is motivated to search for meaning. The present research demonstrated that participants perceived experiential purchases to be more instrumental for finding meaning in life than material purchases as they recommended more experiential than material purchases for people who are actively searching for meaning. The present research also employed a cross-lagged panel design and found that the motivation to search for meaning temporally preceded preference for experiential over material purchase, and vice versa. Establishing the causality, the present research experimentally manipulated the motivation to search for meaning and showed subsequent increase in preference for experiential purchases over material purchases. Finally, the present research developed an intervention method to induce one’s motivation to search for meaning and revealed that participants in the intervention condition exhibited greater preference for experiential purchases over material purchases over time. Importantly, the present research further demonstrated that the induced motivation to search for meaning fostered actual experiential purchases, which in turn enhanced a sense of meaning in life through relevant psychological functioning (e.g., autonomy). The present research offers implications for the role of the search for meaning in the experience of meaning and opens avenues for future research.
Kim, Jinhyung (2018). In Pursuit of Existential Meaning: Motivation to Search for Meaning Facilitates Experiential Purchases Over Material Purchases. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from