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Abstract

Meaning in life has long been recognized as a central dilemma of human life. In this article, we review some of the challenges of studying meaning in life from the perspective of social psychology. We draw on the diary of Etty Hillesum, a young woman who was killed in Auschwitz, to argue for the relevance of current empirical approaches to meaning in life. We review evidence suggesting that meaning in life is an important variable in the psychology of human functioning while also acknowledging that there is no consensus definition for the construct. Drawing on Hillesum's diary and our research, we argue for the importance of considering meaning in life as the outcome of a subjective judgment process. We then review research showing the strong relationship between positive mood and meaning in life and suggest that such a relationship is born out in the phenomenology of meaning in life.