The meaning maintenance model: On the coherence of social motivations

Steven J. Heine, Travis Proulx, Kathleen D. Vohs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

959 Scopus citations


The meaning maintenance model (MMM) proposes that people have a need for meaning; that is, a need to perceive events through a prism of mental representations of expected relations that organizes their perceptions of the world. When people's sense of meaning is threatened, they reaffirm alternative representations as a way to regain meaning-a process termed fluid compensation. According to the model, people can reaffirm meaning in domains that are different from the domain in which the threat occurred. Evidence for fluid compensation can be observed following a variety of psychological threats, including most especially threats to the self, such as self-esteem threats, feelings of uncertainty, interpersonal rejection, and mortality salience. People respond to these diverse threats in highly similar ways, which suggests that a range of psychological motivations are expressions of a singular impulse to generate and maintain a sense of meaning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-110
Number of pages23
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2006


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