(Satisfaction with Life and Subjective Vitality)
While one’s willingness and propensity to engage in conscious worldview integration may be related to the person’s degree of intrinsic motivation toward learning and epistemic beliefs, one also wonders whether a relationship exists between worldview integration and a person’s subjective feelings of well-being. In this final domain, we investigate whether people who are open and actively involved in the integration of their worldview will have a corresponding sense of wonder and aliveness? Or, is it possible that the process of worldview integration is so associated with dissonance and dis-equilibriation that the process is correlated with a sense of confusion, disillusionment and lethargy?
Such questions involve a look into the field of subjective well-being. Generally, subjective well-being is the overall field that attempts to understand how people evaluate their own lives (Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985). Researchers have typically divided the field into the sub-concepts of satisfaction with life and subjective vitality. Satisfaction with life is typically a more affective and global assessment according to one’s own chosen criteria (Shin & Johnson, 1978, p. 78), while subjective vitality deals with feelings of animation and energy—what a person likely refers to when they suggest that a person is “so full of life.” In either event, the criteria must reflect global rather than specific factors. Thus concepts must looks at questions such as “I am satisfied with my life” rather than “I am satisfied with my family” or “I am satisfied with my financial situation.” As we will see, several researchers have suggested a positive correlation between people’s perceived vitality and both their degree of intrinsic motivation and their feelings of autonomy and self-determination. If so, a person with high intrinsic motivation to learn and epistemic beliefs that allow for self-determination regarding their ability to learn would likely also see a positive effect on their perceived vitality (and possibly their satisfaction with life).
However, given the lack of an accepted and operational measure to quantify involvement in worldview integration, any direct correlation between subjective well-being and worldview integration is difficult. While experimental studies may eventually be possible by measuring longitudinal changes in subjective well-being before and after performing worldview integration tasks, this study is not designed to do so. Still, we may be able to use an investigation into correlations between one’s subjective sense of well-being and our concepts of intrinsic motivation to learn and personal epistemology to make hypotheses in this direction. We can also observe any apparent existing correlation between peoples’ current religious worldview and their sense of subjective wellbeing. What will be more difficult to analyze is the causal direction of any discovered correlations. For example, does intrinsic motivation to learn stimulate subjective well-being; or does positive subjective well-being stimulate intrinsic motivation to learn? Does one’s personal epistemology influence the presence or absence of vitality; or does one with a certain level of vitality tend to embrace a certain epistemology? Likewise, is one religious worldview more likely to yield a sense a vitality; or does someone with a certain level of vitality have a propensity to embrace a certain religious worldview? While we may not be able to easily determine the causal path, the very existence of any significant correlations will give have some exploratory merit.
The overall field of subjective well-being is a broad concept that refers to one’s positive experience of life. While originally studied as a one-dimensional variable, research has acknowledged its multidimensional nature and the concept is typically divided not only horizontally into the concepts of satisfaction with life and vitality, but also vertically into the cognitive (beliefs and outlook) and the affective (moods and the emotional). A focus on the cognitive (rather than the affective) aspects of well-being investigates the dimension’s more cognitively accessible and temporally stable nature (Pavot, Diener & Suh, 1998). Why do the cognitive and affective aspects result in different dimensions? According to Pavot and Diener (1993):
First, people may ignore or deny negative emotional reactions while still recognizing the undesirable factors in their lives. Second, affective reactions are often responses to immediate factors and of short duration, whereas life satisfaction ratings can reflect a long-term perspective. Finally, a person’s conscious evaluation of his or her life circumstances may reflect conscious values and goals. In contrast, affective reactions may reflect unconscious motives and the influences of bodily states to a greater extent than do life satisfaction ratings (p. 164).
Ryan and Frederick (1997) have also suggested an additional dimension – that of vitality. However it is unknown whether this should be classified as a third dimension of subjective well-being or as simply a subdivision of the cognitive dimension. According to Nix, Ryan, Manly and Deci (1999), “psychometricians working both in the area of mood and well-being have identified constructs that refer to vitality, reflecting the fact that personal energy is a salient and phenomenally accessible attribute and an important indicator of wellness" (p. 268).
The term ‘vitality’ is originally derived from the Latin word vita or vitalis expressing the manifestation of life. As a philosophical expression, it was first used in the 1500’s to refer to the essence of life and is often defined as an animating force, or principal of life. According to the American Heritage Dictionary for the English Language (4 th Ed.), vitality means “full of life, animated, expressing continued existence, effectiveness.” In essence, it expresses a general energy for life. As a subjective feeling, vitality has been variously defined as a sense of “feeling really alive,” invigorated, or full of energy and enthusiasm for life. Various authors have used a number of adjectives in adjective selection tests to attempt to capture the concept. These have included active, peppy, energetic, vigorous, lively (Purcell, 1982), and enthusiasm, zeal, zest, exhilaration (Shaver, Schwartz, Kirson, and O'Connor , 1987). It is interesting to note that in these adjective tests, affective terms such as happy, contented, pleased, elated, overjoyed, satisfied, cheerfulness, joy, the light, happiness, and satisfaction did not load on the factor described as vigor (Purcell, 1982 and Shaver, et al., 1987). Yet, these descriptive expressions may refer to anything from a momentary feeling in the emotional swing of everyday life to physical symptoms of fatigue and improper diet. As Ryan and Frederick (1997) describe vitality,
This positive sense of aliveness and energy refers to more than merely being active, aroused, or even having stored caloric reserves. Rather we believe it concerns a specific psychological experience of possessing enthusiasm and spirit that we refer to as vitality. Individuals vary in their experience of vitality as a function not only of physical influences (e.g., states of illness and fatigue), but also psychological factors (e.g., being in love, having a mission, being effective). (p. 530)
Freud (1900/1971) has suggested that people possess a limited resource of psychic energy. That energy may be utilized in a variety of ways (such as in self defense or resistance) and the result is a regular depletion of one's available or stored energy. Although this resource may be eventually replenished, Freud’s economic model argues for careful prioritization in its appropriate use. Thus a person's vitality depends upon currently available stores of psychic energy and that person’s skill in governing its depletion and replenishment. While some authors suggest that vitality is a concept recognized by Eastern thought such as Tai Chi, Yoga and various forms of meditation (Thayer, 1996), it would seem that these same authors cannot ignore the possibility that this concept is also found in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
The Bible does suggest that God provides the “strength of my heart” (Psalm 73:26). The exact translation would be akin to “rock of my heart” or “rock of my understanding.” However, in Isaiah 40:31 (“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint”), the term used for strength in Isaiah 40:31 is not “rock,” but is the same as that used in Joshua 14:11, where it is often translated as “vigor” or “vigorous” (NIV). Here, the term for strength is further modified by a term typically translated as renew, replace or “change for the better” (Brown, Driver & Briggs, 1996, 322.) This is arguably akin to the psychological term “vitality.” Additionally, one might also wonder whether Jesus’ use of the word “strength” in his restatement of the Hebrew Shema (Mark 12:30 -- “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength”) might actually refer to the concept of vigor or vitality. Here, the Greek term translated as “strength” is ἰσχύς is typically used to refer to strength and human capability – the power that a person actually possesses (Grundmann, 1965, 396). A part of this capacity or power would seem to be the energy that one possesses to exert toward life – or one’ s vitality.
The concept was revisited when Deci and Ryan (1986) first suggested a connection between personal vitality and their theories of intrinsic motivation and self-determination. Ryan and Frederick (1997) observed that the concept of vitality generally centers on a need to be competent, flourishing, and an active agent in the world. They point out that these fundamental needs tend to be most clearly correlated to the phenomenon of intrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic motivation refers to activity spawned by the pleasure of action, and it is exemplified in behaviors associated with curiosity, exploration, and experimentation with novelty … Accordingly, conditions conducive to intrinsic motivation may also be those associated with a greater subjective sense of vitality (pp 534-535).
Ryan and Frederick (1997) define personal vitality as "one’s conscious experience of possessing energy and aliveness” (p. 530) and “energy that is perceived to emanate from the self" (p. 535). Others restate Ryan and Frederick’s definition as "the subjective experience of being full of energy and alive." (Bostic, Rubio & Hood, 2000, p. 313) or "a positive feeling of aliveness and of possessing personal energy" (Nix, Ryan, Manley & Deci, 1999, p. 268). Thayer (1996) had previously suggested the existence of two types of energized states; calm energy and tense energy, and two low-energy states: calm tiredness and tense tiredness. According to Nix, et al. (1999), "It is his [Thayer’s] construct of calm energy, the relaxed possession of liveliness and vigor, that corresponds to the state of vitality as we herein conceptualize it" (p. 268). Yet, vitality is not a completely psychological notion. Ryan and Frederick ’s (1997) hypothesize that lowered vitality scores would be reflected in cases of somatic pain, physical symptoms, and ineffective body functioning.
Survey of Research into Subjective Well-Being
While it seems clear that people differ in their subjective perceptions of well-being, and that there is a difference between the more affective concept of satisfaction with life and the more physiological concept of subjective vitality, what does research show concerning the two and their connection with other measurable factors of life and personality? The following discusses several of the major studies done in this arena, while Table 5.2, located at the end of this section presents a chronological summary.
Satisfaction with Life
A series of studies by Diener, Emmons, Larsen & Griffin (1985) on both students at the University of Illinois and a few elderly participants inaugurating the Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS) and resulted in high satisfaction with life scores correlating significantly and positively with self esteem (r = .54) and sociability (r = .20), while correlating negatively with neuroticism (r = -.48) and emotionality (r = -.25). Based upon continuing use of the SWLS and a meta-analysis performed by Pavot and Diener (1993), possible scores on the SWLS were found to range from a low of 5 to a high of 35, with a measured normative mean of approximately 23. As further support for this concept, it has been discovered that mean scores on the SWLS were significantly lower for 75 male prison inmates (Joy, 1990). Pavot and Diener (1993) also report lower scores for 52 veterans being treated for alcohol abuse (Frisch, 1992), 43 clinical psychology patients and 70 women who had sought help at an abused women’s shelter.
Although no studies appear to have been completed investigating the relationship between satisfaction with life and either personal epistemology or intrinsic motivation to learn, a number of studies have been conducted regarding religious worldview. Research findings concerning the correlation between religiosity and satisfaction with life appear inconclusive, but have generally shown a positive relationship (Dorahy, Lewis, Schumaker, Akuamoah-Boaten, Dze & Sibiya, 1998: Myers & Diener, 1995). A 1991 study (Ellison, 1991) suggests that strong religious beliefs do have a positive effect on life satisfaction, yet in 1996, Lewis, Joseph & Noble (1996) claimed that there was no correlation between an undergraduate’s attitude toward Christianity and their life satisfaction.
Dorahy, et al. (1998) studied participants from four different cultures (Ghana, Nigeria, Swaziland, and Northern Ireland) and discovered that although life satisfaction showed a corresponding increase alongside one’s positive attitude toward God, there was no statistical significance among females. On the other hand, the correlation was significant among males in three of the four cultures. Others have suggested that religious meaning increases with age and, thus, age and religiosity combined has a positive relationship with life satisfaction (Chamberlain & Zika, 1988). Likewise, personal spirituality may serve as a moderator of other stressors and may thereby positively affect well-being (Fabricatore & Handal, 2000). Byrd, Lear & Schwenka (2000) have suggested that mysticism may have an affect in the complex mix of factors that positively affect satisfaction with life.
Thayer & Moore (1972) noted that students who were given a test of intelligence under high stress (belief that the test would be used for predictive implications toward future college performance) showed both higher levels of tension and lower subjective feelings of energy than those taking the test under less stressful conditions.
Deci and Ryan (1985) wondered if vitality might be a cause of, or more likely, a product of intrinsic motivation. Psychologically, they suggested that subjective vitality would be maintained or increased in situations where the basic needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness are met. Here, autonomous behaviors are those that are “phenomenally experienced as flowing from and expressing one's self, whereas controlled actions are experienced as demands to think, feel, or behave in specified ways and could thus feel like a drain on personal energy. It was hypothesized that the role of autonomy may be particularly important in the dynamics of vitality (Nix et al., 1999). Ryan and Frederick (1997) further postulated that subjective vitality should be related to experiences of autonomy and integration, or self-actualization (Rogers, 1963; Sheldon and Kassar, 1995) and other variables relating to the perception of oneself as a properly functioning person. Thus, psychological states such as depression, anergia, amotivation, extreme forms of external motivation, and others states associated with a lack of control or agency should be negatively correlated with subjective vitality. As they hypothesize, “in these latter cases, the perceived locus of control for experience and behavior lies outside the self, diminishing the felt energy available to the self" (p. 536 ). Based on these hypotheses, Ryan and Frederick (1997) performed a number of separate studies (6) of subjective vitality.
The first study used three samples. Sample A utilized 151 university students, Sample B utilized 190 university students, and Sample C used 376 adults ranging in age from 18 to 75. Each sample was administered a prototype measure of subjective vitality (originally 19 items pared down to 7 items pursuant to factor analysis yielding the Subjective Vitality Scale, SVS) together with the Self-Actualization Scale (Samples A, B & C); the Multidimensional Self-Esteem Inventory (Samples A, B & C); the RAND Health Insurance Mental Health Questionnaire (Samples A & B); the Physical Self-Efficacy Measure (Sample A only); the Hopkins Symptom Checklist (Sample B only); the Center for Epidemiological Studies, Depression Inventory (Samples B & C); and the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale (Samples B & C). These tests would give an indication of what other physical and psychological concepts were related to the concept of subjective vitality. It was observed that vitality was significantly and positively correlated with well-being (self-actualization) (r=.45, .47 and .50) and global self esteem (r= .52, .55, and .60). Vitality also correlated strongly and positively with bodily functioning self-esteem (r=.47, .48, and .51). As anticipated, vitality also correlated negatively with poor mental health ( RAND ) (r= -.47, .60); anxiety (r= -.38, .50) and depression (r= -.44, .60)(Ryan & Frederick (1997).
The second study was designed to investigate the stability of subjective vitality ratings and to attempt replication of the previous findings. Here, Ryan and Frederick (1997) used a longitudinal study of 40 participants in aerobics and Tae Kwon Do classes. The participants were given, among others, the 7 item Subjective Vitality Scale (SVS); the Satisfaction with Life Scale (Diener, Emmons, Larsen & Griffin, 1985) – a 5 item “well-known measure of life satisfaction” (p. 543); and the Self Determination Scale (Sheldon & Deci, 1995). The measures were administered at the beginning of the program and eight weeks later. The results showed that subjective vitality correlated with positive mental health, self-determination, and better physical condition at both times. Vitality also correlated with the Satisfaction with Life Scale (r= ~.50) and the Self Determination Scale (r= ~.60). The test/retest after 8 weeks for vitality was .64.
The third study examined subjective vitality’s correlation with five personality traits (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism) and with social desirability. The sample consisted of 102 undergraduates who were measured using the SVS, the NEO Personality Inventory (five personality traits), the Positive Affect/Negative Affect Scale (moods), and the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale (self presentation). Here, the results showed positive significant correlations between vitality and extroversion (r=.29, p<.01) and with conscientiousness (r=.24, p<.05). There was a larger negative correlation between vitality and neuroticism (r= -35, p<.01). There were also significant correlations between vitality and mood states – a positive correlation with positive mood states (r=.36, p<.01) and a negative correlation with negative mode states (r= -.30, p<.01). There was no significant correlation with the personality traits of openness or agreeableness, or with social desirability.
Study four investigated the relationship between subjective vitality and debilitating pain, specifically those who considered pain to be a controlling factor in their life. Here, the sample consisted of 44 adults who had been referred to a special clinic for those suffering from debilitating pain. This sample was compared with the data from 44 adults with similar demographics who had participated in Study 2 (control group). The participants involved with the clinic were given many of the same tests as those who participated in Studies 1 and 2. However, they additionally completed the Treatment Self-Regulation Questionnaire (TSRQ) (inquiring into the motivation for participating in the pain clinic), and the Pain as Disabling Scale (to assess the degree in which participants perceived their pain as a controlling or interfering factor in their life).
Here, participants in the control group reported significantly higher vitality than those in the pain clinic (M=35.72 vs. M=28.94, t = 4.23, p<.01). Vitality was also negatively related to the Pain as Disabling Scale (r= .45, p< .01). There was no significant correlation between vitality and their perceived degree of pain, yet there was a distinct and significant correlation with pain fright (fear of disability) (r= .42, p< .05). However, as hypothesized, even among the pain patients, subjective vitality also correlated significantly and positively with self-actualization and positive mood states and negatively with such moods as depression and fatigue. As one might expect, the mood of vigor was highly correlated with vitality (r= .59, p< .01). Thus, the authors concluded that it is not so much the pain that detracts from vitality as the perceived disability.
In study 5, the authors use a sample of 40 patients who had participated in a treatment program for morbid obesity. Here, the intent was to investigate the relation of motivational influences to vitality. It was hypothesized that those patients who exhibited higher internal motivation to lose weight would have higher vitality. The patients completed the SVS and the TSRQ (from Study 4) to assess the patient’s internal and external reasons for participating in the program. In addition, weight change and exercise levels were collected. In this study, a significant correlation (r= .47, p< .01) was discovered between internal reasons for participating and subjective vitality. However, there was no correlation between subjective vitality and external reasons. Positive correlations were also found between higher levels of exercise adherence and vitality (r= .41, p< .01) and with change in their Body Mass Index (loss of weight) (r= .35, p< .05).
Finally, in Study 6, the authors investigated the influence of common physical symptoms on subjective vitality. Ninety-seven relatively healthy, asymptomatic undergraduates participated in keeping a diary making entries two times a day for two weeks by recording their current activities, their physical symptoms and their subjective vitality using the SVS. Analysis of these diaries and the 2557 separate SVS results suggest that there was no correlation between vitality and activity type. In addition, mean vitality was not correlated with average physical symptoms. Yet, when these symptoms were broken down, several significant correlations occurred regarding specific symptoms. For example, headaches ranked unusually high (r= -.35, p< .01) and sore muscles, cold symptoms, stomachaches, and faintness all ranged from -.12 to -.20 (p< .001). Thus, clearly physical symptoms can be a drain on one's subjective vitality - a cumulative one. (Ryan & Frederick, 1997, p. 544 ).
Ryan and Frederick (1997) concluded that subjective vitality is a function of a number of conditions regarding personal agency and growth. As they summarize,
It was shown that subjective vitality is, in varied samples, associated with self-actualization, self-determination, mental health, and self-esteem. Conversely, indexes of intrapsychic distress were associated with less vitality. Also, participants reported greater vitality when they felt more self-motivated, and less vitality when they perceived themselves as controlled by external forces, as revealed by measures oftreatment motivation in two settings. (p. 557).
In general, these six studies (besides providing voluminous data for the evaluation of the internal validity for the SVS) support Ryan and Frederick’s (1997) conceptualization of subjective vitality “as a feeling of personal energy associated with agency, which can be diminished by factors that block or hinder autonomy or competence" (p. 560). It also suggests that there is a correlation between intrinsic forms of motivation and vitality. It would seem that environments and contexts that support personal autonomy, internal decisions regarding motivation and competence would enhance one’s vitality, while, on the other hand, situations of control, incompetence and external motivation would lead to diminished vitality.
Nix, et al (1999) then developed a study to investigate more specifically motivational factors and their relation to subjective vitality. Not only had Ryan and Frederick (1997) suggested such a correlation, but Sheldon and Kasser (1995) had previously found a correlation between “personal strivings that were less self-determined” and decreased subjective well-being. Here, Nix, et al. (1999) hypothesized that people who are intrinsically motivated (or possibly extrinsically motivated in an autonomous fashion), would exhibit enhanced vitality - or at least wouldn’t suffer from diminished vitality.
Subjective vitality is allegedly different than simply being happy. Thus, the authors needed to differentiate between the positive affects of vitality and happiness. As they suggest, "Specifically, we differentiate between the positive states of vitality and happiness because vitality entails a special sense of being restorative or regenerative, which is not necessarily true of happiness" (p. 267). While both are positive or satisfying psychological states, only vitality is defined by high states of energy or activation.
The authors also elected to adopt Deci and Ryan’s (1991) Self Determination Theory of motivation discussed earlier. Here, autonomous motivation consists of those forms incorporating a sense of personal agency or personal causation. On the other hand, externally controlled or ego-controlled motivations are those forms where the subject feels coerced or pressured to behave in specific ways. Ego-controlled motivation is where a person internally motivates himself through internal pressure brought on by an external source—such as efforts to maintain societal approval or self esteem (Nicholls, 1984; Ryan, 1982). Deci and Ryan (1991) suggest that intrinsic motivation is by nature autonomous while extrinsic motivation, while sometimes autonomous, is typically controlled. According to Nix, et al. (1999), "It follows then that different motivational orientations may have a quite different impact on people's resulting energy” (p. 273). In general, autonomous activity or forms of motivation would be expected to be more energy maintaining or enhancing than external or ego-motivated activity. Nix et al. hypothesize that, while not improving vitality, success at an ego-controlled activity would “nonetheless, yield a positive affective state, for the person would have achieved a goal and relieved a source of stress. Such ego controlled motivation should therefore result in pleasantness or happiness, but would not be expected to be restorative or to enhance feelings of vitality" (p. 273).
The authors then engaged in a series of three experimental studies. In the first, 93 undergraduates were enlisted to perform a Wisconsin card sort. Half were allowed to perform the card sort in whatever way they creatively wished (self-determined), while the otherhalf were strongly regulated concerning how it should be performed (other directed). Each group was assessed both before and after the card sort for vitality (using Ryan and Frederick ’s Subjective Validity Scale) and for happiness (using a created four item measure inquiring into the areas of pleasant, comfort, satisfaction and contentment). A five item measure was also given at the conclusion to assess the participant’s level of perceived autonomy during the card sort. The data showed a significant interaction on both vitality and happiness among the two samples. Vitality levels were maintained in the self-directed sample (mean change = -.10, SD= .86) while it dropped significantly among the other directed sample (mean change = -.48, SD = .86). A t-test showed significant differences pre and post test on the Subjective Vitality Scale. However, there was no significant difference between the two groups on the happiness measure. Thus, the author’s hypothesis that internal versus external causality in performing the card sort would affect vitality, but not happiness, was supported.
In the second study, 64 undergraduate students were enlisted to perform a certain computer activity. In the first group, there was no reason given for the activity, however the other group was instructed that it would be used as a measure of intelligence. Thus, the students in the second group were subjected to ego-controlled motivation. Here, a different measure (Thayer adjective checklist) was used in place of the SVS for the purpose of differentiating between current levels of vitality and happiness. Once again, the data showed a significant difference between the increase in vitality for the two groups pre and post test. The autonomous group showed a mean change of 1.51, SD = 1.49, while the ego controlled group showed a mean change of 0.65, SD = 1.53. There was a slight positive increase on the happiness measure for both groups, however the difference was not significant. These results were consistent with the first test and suggest that once again, autonomously motivated activities yield a greater enhancement in vitality than ego-controlled activities. Once again, the change in happiness was not affected by these motivational forms.
In the third study, 141 college students were asked to imagine that they were taking a particular class. One group was instructed that the class was being taken solely because it was required and was only available at that time. The other group was instructed to imagine that the class was taken solely because of a desire to participate. The students were given a list of adjective to express their imagined feelings after succeeding (all students were expecting to receive an "A" in the course) at their task. The students were given an adjective checklist intended to cover happiness and vitality items, and a five item manipulation check to ensure that they had understood their imagined task. Even here, there was a significant larger difference pre and post in the vitality adjectives checked for the autonomous group than for the required group, but there was no significant difference in the happiness adjectives (t = 1.81, p = .07).
This series of tests further suggest that engaging in self-regulated (autonomous) activities can help maintain or enhance subjective vitality when compared with the externally motivated or ego-controlled activities. However, the study is subject to noteworthy limitations including a lack of generalizability to a sample outside of college students, and the fact that the data relies upon self report. Additionally, as Nix, et al (1999) recognize, “it is of course the case that many factors besides autonomy can affect subjective vitality” (p. 281). Thus, while intrinsic and autonomous forms of motivation may have a revitalizing potential, other things such as love, intimacy, feelings of competence or even contact with nature, may also play a role.
Vansteenkiste, Duriez, Simons and Soenens (2005, in press) investigated whether extrinsic and materialistic values, such as financial success, fame and physical appearance were generally detrimental to subjective well-being. Similarly, are intrinsic values, such as growth, community contribution and affiliation conducive to subjective well-being? Sheldon and Kasser (1995) had earlier found that personal strivings “that were accompanied by an external perceived locus of causality (i.e., lower perceived autonomy) were predictive of lower subjective vitality" (Ryan & Frederick, 1997, p. 560). Deci and Ryan (1991) and Kasser (2002) previously had argued that extrinsic goals and activities relate to excessive interpersonal comparisons and unstable self-esteem, both of which would be expected to relate negatively with well-being. Likewise, extrinsically oriented individuals would be expected to engage less frequently in activities that might satisfy the psychological need autonomy, competence and relatedness. However, this conflicted with the observation of Sagiv and Schwartz (2000) who suggested that the relationship between materialistic values and well-being would actually depend on the match between people's value orientation and the values that are emphasized within their environment. In other words, sharing environmentally congruent values should be positively related to well-being. According to Vansteenkiste, et al. (2005), "the aim of this study is to further test these conflicting hypotheses" (p. 5).
The authors elected to use both the Subjective Vitality Scale (Ryan & Frederick, 1997), and the Satisfaction with Life Scale (Diener, et al., 1985). The vitality scale was originally a seven item measure, but was scaled down to six items pursuant to the factor analysis and validation work performed by Bostic, Rubio and Hood (2000). The study utilized a sample of 119 undergraduate business majors and 129 infant school teachers. It was anticipated that the environmental value of financial success would be more strongly reinforced within the business school majors than among the infant school teachers. Thus, the existence of extrinsic motivation for financial success within the business school majors would be congruent with their environment as would the lack thereof with the environment of infant school teachers.
Participants filled out the Aspiration Index (Kasser & Ryan, 2001), which investigates the importance that the participant placed on intrinsic versus extrinsic values. The particular values being measured were the three extrinsic goals of financial success, fame, and image. The intrinsic goals were growth, community contribution, and affiliation. In addition, each participant also completed both the Satisfaction with Life Scale and the Subjective Vitality Scale which served as indicators of subjective well-being. Here, the authors found Cronbach's Alphas of .94 for the Satisfaction with Life Scale and .96 for the Subjective Vitality Scale. In addition, the authors discovered that both scales were highly correlated (r = .93, p < .001), a far better correlation than that recorded previously by Ryan and Frederick (1997).
The data showed, as expected, that infant school teachers valued intrinsic values more while the business students favored the pursuit of extrinsic financial success over intrinsic community contribution. In addition, each of the three intrinsic values significantly and positively correlated with both the SVS and the SWLS while each of the three extrinsic values correlated significantly and negatively with he two scales. Vansteenkiste, et al. (2005) conclude that:
These results suggest that the effect of value orientation on well-being is not dependent upon the type of values that are emphasized within the environment. Apparently, the upholding of extrinsic values also constitutes a psychological cost for people who are placed in an environment that supports their extrinsic goal pursuits. (p. 11)
Life can be a draining process and requires constant renewal of our strength and energy. The domain of subjective well-being recognizes this and attempts to measure how well we, as individuals, are succeeding at replenishing and focusing this energy. As we have seen, satisfaction with life measures our personal evaluation of the overall process according to our own selected criteria. Subjective vitality measures the replenishment of our life energy and strength. In Isaiah 40:31, the metaphor of an eagle’s wings is used to represent vitality as the continual renewing of this life energy and teaches that the source of replenishment is our faith and obedience to God.
If we embrace this description of vitality, it would be anticipated that our worldview, depending upon its content, would have a direct correlation to both our satisfaction with life and our vitality. Research seems to back this up. Those with no purpose or no control over their life seem to have lower levels of satisfaction with life. Likewise, religious beliefs might yield a variety of differing patterns depending upon the content of those beliefs, our perceived capability of meeting or living within those beliefs, and our strength and obedience to those beliefs. Vitality would be expected to show similar characteristics. Today’s common understanding of vitality implies an excitement, strength and energy caused by one’s ability to truly serve as a volitional agent making a difference in the world. This strength and energy would be expected to be refreshed whenever our motivation comes from within, whereas forced action with no enthusiasm or purpose would be draining.
Furthermore, it would seem apparent that one who is operating under a worldview that is a) constantly being considered and refined, and b) is coherent and effective within the real world both pragmatically and teleologically would exhibit both higher levels of satisfaction with life and vitality. Those who fail to engage in worldview integration, except in those occasions mandated by simple survival, would eventually become dissatisfied, disenfranchised and drained of the energy of life.
Conclusion Regarding Domains and Literature Review
We have now investigated four measurable domains. The concept of worldview (Chapter 2) includes many categories and classifications of belief. One’s religious worldview (Chapter 2) and one’s epistemological worldview (Chapter 4) are two of the more important arenas, especially when we look for beliefs that may directly affect, control or limit the very process of worldview integration. Examining any possible correlations between these arenas, and any inherent differences in these beliefs among various samples would be instrumental in our search for characteristics that affect or symptomatically disclose differences in levels of worldview integration.
We have also looked at a proposed model of (Worldview Cycle) worldview integration. This model suggests the continual interaction between our current operational beliefs, the filters set up by these beliefs (likely derived from our religious and epistemological beliefs), and our motivation to engage in the process. Both our filters and a lack of volitional motivation can serve to foreclose the process and lead to retreat from critical engagement. If this model is correct, certain worldviews and certain types of motivation may correlate directly with one’s level of critical integration.
In addition, the very act of engaging in such a volitional and cognitive activity beyond that mandated by brute survival requires motivation (Chapter 5). While that motivation is affected by our currently operational worldview and its cadre of personal agency beliefs, it is also affected by both volitional goals and monitored by affective feedback. Critical worldview integration, it would seem, is something that must be initiated from within. It would require a semblance of free choice, autonomy, and a belief in our capabilities and efficacy. This fits well with the self-determination theory of motivation and would suggest that an intrinsic motivation toward discovery and learning is a crucial factor. Again, previous research would seem to support the hypothesis that those who rely on extrinsic forces to act would be more likely to float without direction (in a state of foreclosure and retreat from critical integration) unless directly forced to react due to the extrinsic motivation of survival.
Finally, we have looked at a fourth domain of subjective well-being and its two components of satisfaction with life and subjective vitality (Chapter 5). Here, it is anticipated that we will find some positive correlation between well-being and intrinsic motivation. Previous research has already suggested this. However, what is more difficult to ascertain is whether well-being is a symptom or a cause. Is worldview integration engaged in because the agent is feeling satisfied and vital - or is the person feeling satisfied because he has volitionally engaged in appropriate worldview integration? While our observations may yield support for the existence of the relationship between the concepts, determining the causal direction is likely beyond the scope of this study and will require and serve as a stimulus for further investigation.
Copyright 2005 Mark E. Henze - BBuilders.org