Empowering People through Behavioral Science

RESEARCH AGENDAS

The NPP Project aims to engage an ever-expanding community of scientific minds in invigorating programs of research that address our central question: How might individuals actively shape—rather than merely inhabit—their environments, and thus become more purposeful, powerful creators of their destiny? Below is a brief description of the research agendas now underway.

 

2013 RFP Winners

Purpose & Prosocial Behavior
Purpose & Well-Being
INSTITUTIONS AND PURPOSE: HOW RULES “CROWD IN” OR “CROWD OUT” PURPOSEFUL PROSOCIALITY

Principal InvestigatorDavid Rand, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Economics, Cognitive Science, and Management, Yale University

A sense of purpose arises from feeling that your actions contribute to something larger than yourself. However, working towards collectively beneficial outcomes sometimes requires acting contrary to one’s material self-interest. In building new paths to purpose, therefore, one is faced with the challenge of fostering the desire to engage in cooperative behavior. Institutional environments (e.g. in schools, firms, civil society) typically incentivize cooperation using explicit rewards and punishments. Yet, a wealth of behavioral science research suggests that extrinsic motivators can destroy, or “crowd out”, people’s intrinsic desire to benefit the greater good. More positively, however, recent research from our group suggests that some extrinsic incentives can actually encourage, or “crowd in”, intrinsic motivation to cooperate. The experimental work proposed here addresses the challenge of creating institutions to incentivize good behavior while at the same time increasing intrinsic motivation to engage in these pro-social acts.

Purpose & Well-Being
THE ECONOMIC AND PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF CHRONIC PAIN AMONG LOW-INCOME WORKERS

Principal Investigator: Anuj K. Shah, Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science and Neubauer Family Faculty Fellow, University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Chronic physical pain is common among low-wage workers in developing countries and it has a widespread, negative effect on how these individuals meet daily demands. Not only does pain reduce life quality and well-being, but we predict that it also interferes with how people think, decide, and make a living. As a result, pain may create an important, if underappreciated, obstacle to purposeful living. This project takes the first steps toward understanding these effects, in hopes of building a foundation of knowledge that will enable people  who must contend with potentially debilitating chronic pain (in both developing and advanced economies) to restructure their environments in ways that protect and enhance their well-being, goal-pursuit, and the pursuit of purpose . 

Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Purpose & Well-Being
Purpose Across the Lifespan
USING AUTHENTICITY TO INCREASE PURPOSE AND BELONGING AMONG UNDER-REPRESENTED MINORITY STUDENTS

Principal Investigator: Jenessa Shapiro,  Associate Professor of Psychology and Management, University of California at Los Angeles

Adjustment to college is difficult. As a result, many interventions, including student orientation efforts, aim to make this transition smoother to protect students’ grades, satisfaction with college, and retention. This is particularly important for under-represented racial/ethnic minority students. Under-representation leads students to worry about being seen through the lens of negative stereotypes about their group and to question their sense of fit and belonging in academic settings, which in turn undermines academic interest and performance, a phenomenon called stereotype threat. We propose that stereotype threat will also lead to a reduced sense of purpose: If you feel as though you do not belong in a particular context, it is difficult to derive a sense of purpose or meaningfulness from this context. We further propose that an authenticity intervention—an intervention that individuates students and celebrates their unique cultural backgrounds—will undermine multiple forms of stereotype threats, increase students’ feelings of purpose, and in turn increase well-being, satisfaction with the university, grades, and feelings of academic fit/belonging.

 
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