Empowering People through Behavioral Science

Purpose & Wealth

In exploring the human experience of purpose, the NPP project has identified several core themes that are particularly significant, and which provide a useful framework for organizing our activities.  This page displays the content from this website tagged for one of those themes: Purpose & Wealth.

Work on Purpose & Wealth is grounded in the question of how one’s pursuit and achievement of purpose is affected by wealth. How does one decide how much wealth to devote to different kinds of significant activities, and how might the investment of money or other resources in the self vs. others relate to the experience and fulfillment of purpose as well as to well-being and happiness? How does wealth relate to the pursuit of personal and prosocial goals? How are personal and prosocial goals affected when one has great wealth, compared to little wealth? See below for content related to our emerging insights.

Research Agendas See All Types »

Purpose & Wealth
Purpose & Well-Being

Principal Investigator: Elizabeth W. Dunn, Associate Professor, University of British Columbia

Under what conditions are wealthy individuals inspired to give? The objective of the proposed research is to understand the psychological factors that ‘flip the philanthropy switch,’ thereby transforming the financially successful entrepreneurs of today into the Warren Buffetts of tomorrow. Building on past research, we hypothesize that individuals will be more inclined to use their financial resources to benefit others if they view their own financial success as stemming from situational factors, such as being in the right place at the right time or receiving help from others. In addition, we expect that people who use their wealth to benefit others will experience a greater sense of meaning and purpose. Thus, the proposed research is poised to illuminate how subtle psychological factors can influence individuals’ decisions about whether to use their resources to help others, while tracking how these decisions shape individuals’ own pathways to purpose.

This project is funded by a subaward from the New Paths to Purpose project, as a result of our 2012 Request for Proposals

Purpose & Prosocial Behavior
Purpose & Wealth

Principal Investigator: Eugene M. Caruso, Project Co-Leader and Associate Professor of Behavioral Science

As proverbial wisdom warns, many people fail to anticipate the ways in which money may influence or change them, and thus in the pursuit of wealth they stumble into small-minded and petty patterns of behavior. Nevertheless, remarkable acts of altruism and benevolence among the wealthy have been recorded as long as human history itself, suggesting that there are ways in which people can manage the pursuit and possession of wealth to preserve, and perhaps actually accentuate some of our most charitable instincts. This research therefore aims to understand how, and under what conditions, exposure to money, wealth, and related resources can inspire individuals to embrace actions that transcend self-interest to reflect noble, compassionate, and benevolent purpose.

This project is a foundational agenda for the New Paths to Purpose Project

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