Meaning in life is a summative cognition of valuable goals, life purpose, and relationships among things and people. A central feature of meaning in life is the broad consideration of more than oneself. We extend this logic to suggest that people higher in meaning in life will engage in more prosocial behaviors, compared to others. Further extending this idea, we hypothesized and longitudinally tested the assertion that one of the potentials, yet overlooked and important mechanisms that mediates the association between current meaning in life and prosocial behavior among university students six-months later is psychological capital (PsyCap). A total of 913 Chinese university students (25.6% males; 70.3% females; Mage = 19.63, SDage = 1.04) completed a Meaning in Life Questionnaire (MLQ), a Prosocial Tendencies Measure (PTM), and a Positive Psychological Capital Questionnaire (PPQ) at three different times. The results showed that the association between T1 meaning in life and T3 prosocial behavior was significant before adding the mediator variables into the model (β = 0.10, p < 0.001). T2 PsyCap significantly mediated the influence of T1 meaning in life on T3 prosocial behavior (indirect effect = 0.10; 95% CI [0.06, 0.14]).
We concluded that meaning in life in university students can influence subsequent prosocial behaviors, directly, as well as through PsyCap.