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On the meaningfulness of existence: When life salience boosts adherence to worldviews


Wijnand A. P. van Tilburg, Department of Psychology, Computer Science Building, University of Limerick; Castletroy, Ireland.



We investigated when and how life salience boosts adherence to worldviews. It was hypothesized that, similar to thoughts of mortality, thoughts about a meaningful existence increase adherence to worldviews. Study 1a, 1b, and 1c yielded support for the symmetric effects of life and mortality salience on existential thoughts and worldview adherence. Furthermore, study 2 showed that contemplating life's meaningfulness (versus meaninglessness) increased adherence to worldviews. Study 3 showed increased worldview adherence when contemplating life's meaningfulness (versus meaninglessness), and provided additional evidence that the effect on worldview adherence was mediated by the appraisals of life's meaningfulness. Finally, study 4 suggests that both reflecting on life and mortality leads to more worldview adherence under conditions of meaningful life appraisals. The findings are discussed with respect to research in existential psychology. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.