Cary Grant gives life a meaning

It may seem a strange place to start looking for the meaning of life, but American psychologists have turned to Cary Grant to help decipher the mysteries of human existence.

It may seem a strange place to start looking for the meaning of life, but American psychologists have turned to Cary Grant to help decipher the mysteries of human existence.

The Hollywood actor, who was born Archibald Leach, once quipped: "I improve on misquotation." But this did not stop professor Richard Kinnier of Arizona University including him in a list of 195 of the world's key thinkers whose sayings were analysed by four psychologists to discover the way humans explain their existence.

After considering quotes from Jean-Paul Sartre, Agatha Christie and Bob Dylan, among others, the team concluded that the most popular reason for existing was to enjoy life. At least 17% of famous thinkers supported the theory, including Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the US, and the singer Janis Joplin, who after advising "get it while you can", died of a heroin overdose in 1970.

Published in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology this week, the research found the second most popular meaning of life was to "love, help or serve others" - supported by Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein and Jean Jacques Rousseau. But 13% of thinkers, including Napoleon and the physicist Stephen Hawking, concluded that life was "a mystery". A further 11%, including Sigmund Freud, Franz Kafka, and Joseph Conrad, decided it was "meaningless".


Angelique Chrisafis

The GuardianTramp

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