Willem Sleegers: "Meaning and Pupillometry: The Role of Physiological Arousal in Meaning Maintenance"

Kurt Lewin Instituut
Heidelberglaan 1
Room Number H1.42
3584 CS UTRECHT
The Netherlands
T: +31 (0)30 - 253 3027

Willem Sleegers: "Meaning and Pupillometry: The Role of Physiological Arousal in Meaning Maintenance"

On September 29, 2017 Willem Sleegers will defend the PhD thesis entitled "Meaning and Pupillometry: The Role of Physiological Arousal in Meaning Maintenance"

Promotor
prof. dr. Ilja van Beest

Co-promotor
dr. Travis Proulx


Summary

The goal of the present dissertation is to examine the role of physiological arousal in meaning maintenance, using the Meaning Maintenance Model (MMM) as the guiding theoretical framework.

The MMM is an integrative model in the existential psychology literature to explain both what meaning is and how people respond to lost meaning. The central idea is that people adopt sets of beliefs that allow them to make sense of the world. Through the adoption of these beliefs, people structure their experiences and come to expect specific relationships, whether it is the color of objects, the behavior of people, or the unfolding of world events. According to the MMM, meaning is found in these expected relationships.

However, peopleís beliefs are imperfect, causing them to regularly face events that violate their expectations. This violates their sense of meaning. The MMM states that the loss of meaning results in a state of aversive physiological arousal, which motivates people to perform compensatory behavior to reduce the arousal. This compensatory behavior can consist of reinterpreting the event to be consistent with oneís prior beliefs, by changing oneís beliefs, or by affirming unrelated, yet meaningful, beliefs from a different domain.

In this dissertation we review the literature on potential physiological mechanisms for the arousal-behavior link that is predicted by the MMM. Additionally, we performed experimental studies in which we assessed arousal through the use of pupillometry. Pupillometry is the technique of measuring the size and reactivity of the pupil. The pupil displays small fluctuations that do not serve any visual function. Instead, these small fluctuations reflect a state of physiological arousal. We assessed participantís pupil reactivity while presenting them with a variety of meaning violations, such as misconceptions, social exclusion, and perceptual anomalies in order to demonstrate that people display heightened arousal after experiencing meaning violations, and that this arousal predicts subsequent compensatory behavior. Together, our findings offer support for the MMMís tenet that arousal plays a significant role in the maintenance of meaning.


« back

News

KLI Conference 2016
Read...

KLI Best Paper Award 2016 for Anne Marthe van der Bles, MSc.
Read...

News archive...

Planned defences

September 28, 2017
Anne Marthe van der Bles
Groningen, 16.15 uur
More...

September 29, 2017
Willem Sleegers

More...

All planned defences...

Recent PhD titles

September 12, 2017
Yujie Cheng

More...

June 19, 2017
Jolien van Breen
University of Groningen
More...

All PhD titles...