Friday, March 23, 2018

Is Life Meaningful, or Is the World a Pointless Cesspool of Suffering and Death? New Scientific Evidence

The poll results are in. With 1273 respondents to the SurveyMonkey version of my new Meaning Of Life Outcome Measure, we now have scientific evidence that life is meaningful!

86% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement "There is value in living, either value that we can find if we search for it, or value that we ourselves can create" and only 6% disagreed or strongly disagreed. In contrast, only 31% of respondents agreed that "The world is a pointless cesspool of suffering and death" (49% disagreed). Interestingly, 24% of respondents agreed with both claims.

Other results:

Every moment, every breath, every success and every failure is a treasure to be cherished: 45% agree, 31% disagree.

All the uses of this world are weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable. Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing: 24% agree, 57% disagree.

Everything is just atoms bumping in the void, so nothing you do really matters: 46% agree, 37% disagree.

It is better to have strived and struggled than never to have been: 68% agree, 15% disagree.

On average, respondents reported being "moderately confident" of their answers, on a four-point scale from "not at all confident" to "highly confident" (mean 1.9 on 0-3 scale).

Total Meaningfulness Score:

To calculate a total Meaningfulness Score, each answer was assigned a score from -2 to +2. Respondents scored -2 for strongly agreeing with a negatively-valenced statement or strongly disagreeing with a positively-valenced statement, and they scored +2 for strongly agreeing with a positive statement or strongly disagreeing with a negative one. Across six questions, this gave a possible Meaningfulness Score of -12 to +12.

Respondents were grouped into three categories:
Life is meaningless (-12 to -2): 16%
Meh (-1 to +1): 22%
Life is meaningful (+2 to +12): 62%

The average Meaningfulness Score was 2.7. This suggests that life is only slightly meaningful.

Factor Analysis:

After reverse-scoring the negatively-valenced items, an unrotated two-factor maximum likelihood exploratory factor analysis reveals a first factor (Life is Meaningful) explaining 32% of the variance, on which which all six questions loaded positively (.14 to .33), and a second factor (Acquiescence) explaining 10% of the variance, onto which the three positively-valenced questions loaded positively (.17, .26, and .46) and the negatively-valenced loaded negatively (-.14, -.28, -.28; since the latter are reverse-scored, this indicates agreement with the negatively-valenced statements). In a three-factor solution, the third variable explains only 6% of the variance, so a two-factor solution is preferred.

Cronbach's alpha is .705, just above the standard acceptable threshold of .70, suggesting sufficient inter-item correlation for a useful psychometric scale that is aimed at a single underlying construct.

In related news, God prefers spheres.

1 comment:

Howard Berman said...

My analyst in my youth once told me that the questions of psychology would be solved when +1 and -1 together would add up to something other than zero, that life is a polarity- which means that life is meaningless and meaningful at once- I can't think of many people who honestly score a twelve on life is meaningful unless they are some kind of God on earth or suffered hellishly to get there-