The Meaning Maintenance Model: On the Coherence of Social Motivation

The Meaning Maintenance Model: On the Coherence of Social Motivation

Steven J. Heine, Travis Proul, Kathleen D. Vohs

Personality and Social Psychology Review, 2006, Vol. 10, No. 2, 88-110 doi:10.1207/s15327957pspr1002_1


The meaning maintenance model (MMM) proposes that people have a need for meaning; that is, a need to perceive events through a prism of mental representations of expected relations that organizes their perceptions of the world. When people’s sense of meaning is threatened, they reaffirm alternative representations as a way to regain meaning-a process termed fluid compensation. According to the model, people can reaffirm meaning in domains that are different from the domain in which the threat occurred. Evidence for fluid compensation can be observed following a variety of psychological threats, including most especially threats to the self, such as self-esteem threats, feelings of uncertainty, interpersonal rejection, and mortality salience. People respond to these diverse threats in highly similar ways, which suggests that a range of psychological motivations are expressions of a singular impulse to generate and maintain a sense of meaning.

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