Lab- and field-based approaches to meaning threats and restoration: Convergences and divergences

Crystal L. Park, Login S. George

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Two distinct approaches to meaning-experimental lab-based research on meaning and its maintenance in response to situational cues and observational field research on meaning-focused coping following highly stressful or traumatic situations- have both produced important insights into the mechanics underlying responses to meaning-relevant threats. It has been suggested that although these 2 approaches focus on different, specific aspects of meaning, they converge on common underlying phenomena. The present article considers how lab-based and field-based approaches align and diverge on their answers to 4 questions: (1) How is meaning defined in the context of meaning violation and restoration? (2) What are threats to meaning? (3) How do people respond to these threats? and (4) Why does meaning restoration matter? Our comparison of these lab- and field-based approaches suggests that they share considerable commonalities in conceptualization, but they diverge in important ways in terms of emphasis and empirical considerations. We conclude that lab- and field-based approaches to meaning violation and restoration may be focusing on the same phenomena studied at different levels, but with some qualitative differences, and we offer suggestions for how lab- and field-based approaches can better inform one another. Considering these two approaches conjointly provides a more holistic and comprehensive understanding of the fundamental phenomena of meaning threat and restoration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-84
Number of pages12
JournalReview of General Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)


  • Meaning
  • Meaning making
  • Stress
  • Threat compensation
  • Trauma


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