Skip to content
BY-NC 4.0 license Open Access Published by Academic Studies Press February 13, 2021

Meaning and Evolution: Why Nature Selected Human Minds to Use Meaning

  • Roy F. Baumeister and William von Hippel


We treat meaning as nonphysical connection and potential organization. Meaning is a resource that can be used by animals to improve survival and reproduction. The evolu­tion of brains to exploit meaning occurred in two heuristic steps. First, solitary brains developed mental representations of patterns for learning and guiding adaptive action. Second, humankind greatly expanded the usefulness of meaning by using it collectively, such as by deliberately communicating information, creating a body of shared beliefs and understandings, and using meaning to organize social life. The intentional application of meaning to life, as in the quest for a meaningful life, is a later development linked to ways of organizing behavior to maximize future outcomes and relate the individual to societal systems.

Keywords: meaning; evolution
Published Online: 2021-02-13
Published in Print: 2020-12-01

© 2020 by Academic Studies Press

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Downloaded on 26.9.2023 from
Scroll to top button