Empowering People through Behavioral Science

Purpose Across the Lifespan

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 Across the Lifespan.

Sometimes people have the same goals and purposes for most of their life, yet other times they abandon some goals or adopt new ones. Work on Purpose Across the Lifespan considers the many implications of this fact, asking questions like: How do specific goals develop in children? What are the factors that determine whether and for how long these early goals will be pursued? What prompts people to abandon existing goals or adopt new ones? In what ways do goals change with various milestones throughout life (e.g., the birth of children, retirement)? See below for content related to our emerging insights.

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Apr 06 2015
Purpose & Well-Being
Purpose Across the Lifespan

Purpose Today Keeps the Doctor Away

Looking back on one’s life and the things one has accomplished and enjoyed is one of the most purposeful activities that one can engage in. That is one of the reasons that Alzheimer’s disease is so very troubling to most people. It takes away one’s sense of purpose in the moment, and can make it difficult to remember those things that matter to them most. We know that Alzheimer’s can rob us of purpose, but can purpose be used to combat Alzheimer’s? Recent research from Patricia Boyle and colleagues suggests the answer might be yes…

By Alex Shaw, Haotian Zhou
Jan 30 2015
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior
Purpose & Well-Being
Purpose Across the Lifespan

How Thinking about our Legacy Can Save the World

Even as scientists become increasingly concerned about the possible environmental havoc climate change can wreak on our environment, the public is generally apathetic about doing their part to reduce this growing threat. The benefits of doing nothing are so immediate and concrete whereas the apparent harms are so distant and abstract. How can we get people to act more purposefully, joining forces with their fellow human beings to combat the looming threat of climate change? Lisa Zaval, Ezra Markowitz, and Elke Weber conducted some research that suggests that if you want people to help the environment today, you need to make them think about their legacy in the future.

By Alex Shaw, Haotian Zhou
Dec 12 2014
Purpose & Wealth
Purpose & Well-Being
Purpose Across the Lifespan

How Your Partner’s Personality Might Get You Promoted

Choosing the person that you will marry will be one of the most important and defining decisions you ever make. Your spouse is likely to be a key source of joy, support, purpose, and meaning that is unparalleled by any of your other relationships. While the type of person you marry will directly influence your personal life in countless ways, it is less clear how your choice of partner might affect your success at work. Recent research suggests that the impact of your spouse’s character traits extends well beyond the home — predicting a number of work related outcomes such as overall job satisfaction, income and even likelihood of promotion.

By Brittany Christian, Janina Steinmetz
Jun 07 2014
Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior
Purpose & Wealth
Purpose & Well-Being
Purpose Across the Lifespan

NPP Network Members Convene to Discuss Multiple Paths to Purpose

 

The first annual New Paths to Purpose conference held at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business was filled with interesting ideas and discussions. We recap the conference here.

By Alex Shaw, Oren Shapira
Mar 12 2014
Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose Across the Lifespan

How to Narrow the First-Generation Gap in Education?

First-generation college students often struggle in college compared to students whose parents have college degrees. What type of intervention is better at helping first-generation students, one that emphasizes the unique challenges of being a first-generation student or one that treats everyone equally? New research from Nicole Stephens and colleagues provides an answer…

By Alex Shaw, Oren Shapira
Oct 19 2013
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose Across the Lifespan

Inside the Science of Purpose: Hal Hershfield

Professor Hal Hershfield in an interview for our “Inside the Science of Purpose” series: “By clarifying that today’s choices have serious, vivid consequences for tomorrow’s health and well-being, we hope to help people attain more purpose in their lives.”

By Alex Shaw, Oren Shapira
Jul 18 2013
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose Across the Lifespan

Helping Our Present Rescue Our Future

The recent debates over student loans are just one case of how our leaders must make decisions now that will influence events far in the future. How can we encourage them to care about the future? Could previous research designed at encouraging saving for retirement be used to save the future? 

By Alex Shaw, Oren Shapira

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