Graduate Program

Clinical Psychology

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion

Fall 2020

Thesis Director

Ronan S. Bernas

Thesis Committee Member

Wesley D. Allan

Thesis Committee Member

Assege HaileMariam


Meaning in life as a psychological construct has many demonstrated benefits for psychological well-being and optimal functioning (Steger, 2013), and the treatment of clinical populations (Thir & Batthyány, 2016). This study investigated in greater detail than is currently available in the psychological literature how meaning in life is related to curiosity. Meaning in life was explored using top-down (the presence of and the search for meaning) and bottom-up (the specific sources of meaning) approaches. Curiosity was examined in its two motivation-based forms: curiosity motivated by the anticipation and enjoyment of discovery (an appetitive interest-type of curiosity) and curiosity motivated by a need to reduce uncertainty by filling in worrisome gaps in knowledge (a deprivation-type anxiety-reducing type of curiosity).

Data were obtained from an Amazon Mechanical Turk sample of 190 participants. The two types of curiosity were not associated with the presence of meaning in life. However, deprivation-type curiosity was more strongly related to the search for meaning in life than interest-type curiosity. While both types of curiosity were positively related to an overall endorsement of sources of meaning in life, interest-type curiosity was specifically more related to self-transcendence and achievement as sources of meaning and negatively related to intimacy and religion. Deprivation-type curiosity was related to greater self-transcendence as a meaning source. This study adds to the existing literature by demonstrating how the relationship between curiosity and meaning in life does depend on the motives for one’s curiosity.