Narratives of Lost Meaningfulness: When Contamination Sequences have Humanistic Themes
Life stories' affective sequences indicate how people feel about the changes in their lives. Contamination is a common affective sequence in which the narrative begins with positive or neutral affect but declines to negative affect. While previous studies showed that contamination sequences predict a variety of poor well-being indices (e.g., McAdams, Reynolds, Lewis, Patten, & Bowman, 2001), whether contamination's accompanying themes—such as humanistic or materialistic concerns—change their predictive utility for well-being is unknown. Based on the low- and turning-point narratives of 211 participants, we examined whether contamination sequences with humanistic themes (e.g., a loss of meaning due to unemployment) differed in their relations to well-being compared to contaminated narratives without humanistic themes (e.g., a loss of prestige due to unemployment). We predicted that contamination sequences would interact with humanistic themes to predict significantly lower levels of well-being. Though the data showed a trend toward this interaction, contaminated humanistic narratives were exceptionally rare and the interaction was not statistically significant. In addition, we refined the standard measure of contamination sequences into three categories, finding that contamination sequences only predict well-being when they begin with positive, not neutral, affect. A third, new category, bad-to-worse contamination, predicted the lowest levels of well-being.
John J Bauer
Primary Advisor's Department
Stander Symposium poster
"Narratives of Lost Meaningfulness: When Contamination Sequences have Humanistic Themes" (2019). Stander Symposium Posters. 1710.