Experiential appreciation as a pathway to meaning in life

A key research program within the meaning in life (MIL) literature aims to identify the key contributors to MIL. The experience of existential mattering, purpose in life and a sense of coherence are currently posited as three primary contributors to MIL. However, it is unclear whether they encompass all information people consider when judging MIL. Based on the ideas of classic and contemporary MIL scholars, the current research examines whether valuing one’s life experiences, or experiential appreciation, constitutes another unique contributor to MIL. Across seven studies, we find support for the idea that experiential appreciation uniquely predicts subjective judgements of MIL, even after accounting for the contribution of mattering, purpose and coherence to these types of evaluations. Overall, these findings support the hypothesis that valuing one’s experiences is uniquely tied to perceptions of meaning. Implications for the incorporation of experiential appreciation as a fundamental antecedent of MIL are discussed.

“Imagine a music lover sitting in the concert hall, while the most noble measures of his favorite symphony resound in his ears. He feels that shiver of emotion which we experience in the presence of the purest beauty. Suppose now that at such a moment we should ask this person whether his life has meaning. He would have to reply that it had been worthwhile living if only to experience this ecstatic moment.” (ref. 1, p. 43)..