Making Time Matter: A Review of Research on Time and Meaning

Making Time Matter: A Review of Research on Time and Meaning

By Melanie Rudd, Rhia Catapano, Jennifer Aaker
2019Working Paper No. 3745

Forthcoming in Journal of Consumer Psychology 2019

In this conceptual paper, we review three decades of research on time and meaning in consumer research and psychology to identify key themes that have emerged, build frameworks that integrate past research, and reveal areas of potential for future empirical exploration. We begin by carving out a conceptual understanding of meaning in life and identifying time as a key lens through which the pursuit of meaning can be viewed. We then review extant research on how to spend and construe time in ways that enhance meaning, relying on two frameworks—one anchored in three dimensions of meaning (purpose, mattering, and comprehension) and the other in three levels of time (momentary, day-to-day, and lifetime). We conclude by outlining several directions for future research focused on deepening our understanding of how consumers can think about and use their time in ways that boost their sense of meaning in life.