Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Psychology



First Advisor

Stefan E. Schulenberg

Relational Format



Values-based interventions in therapeutic settings direct behavior with avoidance and escape functions towards valued domains that are intrinsically reinforcing. This “progression” towards valued domains fluctuates on a daily basis, predicting less psychological stress. Contemporary conceptualizations of meaning in life delineate two primary domains: purpose (goal achievement), and significance or presence of meaning (the extent to which a person perceives themselves as “mattering”). These domains have not been simultaneously and systematically investigated in college students, a population at risk for developing maladaptive coping strategies and negative affect attributed to adjustment-related issues (e.g., binge drinking, depression, increased risk for suicidal ideation). College students also engage in experiential avoidance behaviors, defined as the unwillingness to experience private events, such as thoughts, feelings, or physical sensations. Experiential avoidance has also been theorized to interfere with valued living. However, few studies have examined fluctuations in valued living predicted by the prominent facets of meaning and experiential avoidance over time in general, but in particular, with regard to a college student sample. The present study used Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) to predict values-based behavior from different domains of meaning in life (i.e., significance and purpose) and experiential avoidance. Of the 100 college students recruited, 73 individuals completed daily surveys across 14 days. Across all participants, significance and purpose predicted same-day progression towards valued domains, accounting for 53% of the variance in values progression. Experiential avoidance and meaning predicted same-day obstruction towards valued domains, accounting for 36% of the variance. Results suggest that meaning and purpose should be utilized separately, and that meaning, purpose, and experiential avoidance play a role in valued living.

Included in

Psychology Commons


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