The desire to find meaning is recognized as a fundamental human quest. Adler introduced us to the realization that humans live in the world of meaning, Frankl convinced us to believe that our life is directed at and guided by meaning, while Freud suggested that all our actions mean something. Meaning in life is seen as an important construct which is implicated in various research topics, including beliefs and having a consistent understanding of self, others and life in general. Yet another “fuzzy” concept is that of free will and people’s beliefs about it. Scholars have debated for centuries about the existence and possible nature of free will. And while the scholars argue, ordinary people also continue to alter their views about this concept. It has already been demonstrated that disbelief in free will causes dishonest, aggressive and conforming behaviours, whereas belief in it induces self-efficacy, self-control and punitive attitude towards wrongdoers. Research like this point to the need to investigate such major concepts as beliefs about free will and meaning in life and their relation to personality which the present study seeks to attempt.
The variety of individual differences is immense and different personality traits can provide humans with competitive advantages in different environments. Although there is a lack of informative explanations addressing questions such as, where traits come from, how they operate as well as how they produce differences in behaviour, traits are great describers of individual differences. There has been a growing consensus that individual personality differences can be described by a hierarchical system consisting of several major traits, in particular, the five-factor models have gained distinct prominence. Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness and conscientiousness – The Big 5 traits have been celebrated for their ability to simplify a plethora of traits, their cross-cultural application as well as their ability to account for a substantial amount of the human behaviour variation. These personality traits serve as categorical distinguishment markers when looking at relationship between them and an array of other measures, including meaning in life and beliefs about free will.
Philosophers and other authorities have questioned the existence of free will for centuries. Even though some may view such differences in opinion as little, recent work has indicated that these beliefs have practical consequences. For example, Harmon-Jones and Mills (1999) established that invoking a sense of personal accountability causes people to modify their behaviour to better align with their attitudes, while the findings of Vohs and Schooler (2008) suggested that students who had been induced not to believe in free will became more likely to cheat on a test and steal money. Mueller and Dweck (1998) extended these findings by looking at the performance on tasks of 10-year-old children after they have been told their success was a result of either their intelligence or their hard work. The authors concluded that those children who thought their success was due to their intelligence, put less effort and reported lower enjoyment than children who thought their success was a result of their own effort. In light of the evidence that agent’s beliefs about free will foresee various important social behaviour patterns, including diminished individual causation and possible promotion of undesirable behaviours, it would be beneficial to understand more about those beliefs.
Belief in free will has been shown to positively correlate with life satisfaction and finding life meaning. In fact, the ability of humans to create, share and transmit meaning is what allowed humankind to achieve an exceptional level of intelligence and progress, setting it apart from other animals (Chao & Kesebir, 2013). However, due to the abstract nature of meaning in life construct, it has been problematic and challenging for researchers to conceptualize it (George & Park, 2016). An array of various definitions have highlighted different aspects, such as having a life aim, feeling fulfilment, experiencing a sense of significance etc. which prevent the integration of meaning in life research with the broader literature. Although problematic in research, it seems that people have a general notion of what meaning is, although they would probably struggle to provide an explicit definition. Recently, a tripartite view of meaning in life construct, which is composed of three distinct sub-constructs of comprehension, purpose and significance, has been gaining momentum. It could be then argued that in order to live their lives as reflective beings, humans need three things: first, they need to understand their surrounding world, second, people need to identify direction for their actions and third, they need to find value in their lives. Currently, however, there is a lack of empirical investigation focused on each subconstruct individually, thus this untapped potential calls psychology to investigate what makes life worth living as well as contribute to and make advancements in meaning in life literature.
With all of the above in mind, the current study will seek to investigate the potential relationship between personality traits, meaning in life and beliefs about free will. A total of three self-report questionnaires measuring the three constructs will be used. These three inventories will be converted into an online survey to be completed by anonymous volunteers recruited through university, friends and family. Volunteers will be provided with instructions and introductory information after which they can proceed to complete the online survey. Upon finishing the online questionnaire, they will be presented with debrief and contact information for any further queries. The present study seeks to expand on possible relation between the three constructs of personality traits, beliefs about free will and meaning in life. Despite a great deal of research conducted on personality traits, beliefs in free will and meaning in life, research concerning the connections between these constructs has been somewhat limited. Focusing on the link between personality, meaning in life and beliefs in free will is important because personality traits are closely related to how individuals process information about their social environments, which, in return, impacts the beliefs, values, motives, and goals that individuals adopt.