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.

 

Foundational Agendas

Purpose & Prosocial Behavior
Purpose & Wealth
THE PURPOSE OF WEALTH: HELPING MONEY GO TO OUR HEARTS, NOT TO OUR HEADS

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

Purpose in Goal Pursuit
OPTIMAL MOTIVATION

Principal Investigator: Ayelet Fishbach, Jeffrey Breakenridge Keller Professor of Behavioral Science and Marketing

Motivation is needed not only to begin, but also to progress toward and ultimately achieve the vast majority of desirable life outcomes. Too often, however, we tend to view such motivation as a mysterious, unpredictable force that acts upon us, rather than as a manageable power we can align with our will. This research therefore aims to explore four domains in which individuals can potentially control situational factors to more reliably evoke their motivation to fulfill their chosen purposes: progress feedback; regulation of attention to the experiential vs. instrumental value of intermediate goals; management of the logistical (e.g., coordination) and relationship (e.g., gratitude) demands involved in joint efforts; and avoidance of tempting distractions through the exercise of self-control.

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

Purpose & Well-Being
PURPOSE THROUGH ACTIVITY

Principal Investigator: Christopher K. Hsee, Theodore O. Yntema Professor of Behavioral Science and Marketing

Over the last few decades, an extensive body of research has shown that boredom is inherently aversive, and that people seek a sense of meaning and purpose even for relatively mundane tasks. Little research, however, has yet explored the possibility that individuals can successfully manage these experiences by actively imbuing a sense of purpose in, or extracting a sense of purpose from what might otherwise be hastily dismissed as meaningless activity. This research aims to close this gap by investigating when, why, and how individuals will capitalize on, rather than dismiss opportunities to increase their own happiness through activity.

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

Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior
VOLUNTEERISM: HOW INDIVIDUAL INTENTIONS CAN BE SUCCESSFULLY ENGAGED BY SOCIAL PURPOSE

Principal Investigators:

  • George Wu, Professor of Behavioral Science
  • Ayelet Fishbach, Jeffrey Breakenridge Keller Professor of Behavioral Science and Marketing

Individuals derive some of their greatest fulfillment from pursuing experiences with a shared social purpose, and unsurprisingly, many exhibit no end of good intentions to volunteer for such efforts. Too few, however, of these generous impulses produce actual volunteer activity. Instead, subtle and unanticipated situational factors often interfere to derail and diminish even the best of intentions, such that people not only fail to act, but also remain ignorant of just how they went astray. This research aims to address this problem by exploring the following fundamental research question: How, and with what features and forces of context can individuals better evoke, support, and strengthen their own and others’ contributions (of time, money, effort, etc.) to social purpose?

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

 
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