Positive Affect, Meaning in Life, and Future Time Perspective: An Application of Socioemotional Selectivity Theory

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Abstract

Four studies tested the prediction that positive affect (PA) would relate more strongly to meaning in life (MIL) as a function of perceived time limitations. In Study 1 (N = 360), adults completed measures of PA and MIL. As predicted, PA related more strongly to MIL for older, compared to younger, participants. In Studies 2 and 3, adults (N = 514) indicated their current position in their life span, and rated their MIL. PA, whether naturally occurring (Study 2) or induced (Study 3), was a stronger predictor of MIL for individuals who perceived themselves as having a limited amount of time left to live. Finally, in Study 4 (N = 98) students completed a measure of PA, MIL, and future time perspective (FTP). Results showed that PA was more strongly linked to MIL for those who believed they had fewer opportunities left to pursue their goals. Overall, these findings suggest that the experience of PA becomes increasingly associated with the experience of MIL as the perception of future time becomes limited. The contribution of age related processes to judgments of well-being are discussed.

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