Empowering People through Behavioral Science

Purpose & Prosocial Behavior

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 & Prosocial Behavior.

Work on Purpose & Prosocial Behavior  is centered on the discovery of factors that attract individuals to prosocial behaviors like volunteering, teaching, and serving others.  Here, we ask questions like: To what extent are the factors that promote the initiation of prosocial behavior the same as the factors which best sustain ongoing prosocial behavior? When are “push” factors more or less effective than “pull” factors in initiating and sustaining helping behavior? See below for content related to our emerging insights.

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Apr 01 2014
Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior

The Art of Asking for Help, Twice

Is it worth asking for a favor from someone who has refused before? A new paper suggests that our intuitions about such situations are misguided, potentially making us miss out on opportunities to get needed help.

By Oren Shapira, Alex Shaw
Jan 09 2014
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior
Purpose & Well-Being

Be a “Keeper” of Your New Year’s Resolution

New Year’s resolutions provide a new opportunity to reaffirm our purpose, but it can be easy to be led astray. How can we stay on track? New research from Chris Bryan suggests that a seemingly subtle change in the words we use to describe our actions can help.

By Alex Shaw, Oren Shapira
Dec 20 2013
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior

Inside the Science of Purpose: George Wu

Professor George Wu, in an interview for our “Inside the Science of Purpose” series: "Purpose in my mind largely is the clarity of mind about which motivations you really want to pursue. I think that our research will contribute to creating that clarity by demonstrating how prosocial activities like volunteering are a means to achieving purpose."

By Oren Shapira, Alex Shaw
Dec 13 2013
Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior

Gift Exchange: When Does the Thought Really Count?

Choosing the holiday gift that will be most appreciated can be challenging sometimes. When is it the thought that counts and when is it all about choosing the right gift? Research by Yan Zhang and Nicholas Epley provides some intriguing insights, including an unexpected benefit of gift exchange for givers. 

By Oren Shapira, Alex Shaw
Oct 10 2013
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior

Promoting Purpose with a Single Question

Aspiring to live a purposeful life and extend our help to others presents us with non-trivial choices. New research by Professor Christopher Hsee from the NPP Network and his colleagues discovered a single question that can help us calibrate our choices on charitable giving and assist fundraisers in boosting donations.

By Oren Shapira
Aug 31 2013
Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior

When Values Clash on the Path to Purpose

Our decisions can define the purpose of our existence. Chelsea Manning’s controversial decision to release classified government documents has radically altered her purpose in life. Some see her as a hero while others see her as a traitor. Recent research explains why this discrepancy might exist. 

By Alex Shaw, Oren Shapira
Aug 01 2013
Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior
Purpose & Wealth

Making Progress on the Path to Purpose

Sam Simon, co-creator of The Simpsons, recently vowed to donate the majority of his fortune to support animal rights because with animal rights one can see fast progress. What can New Paths to Purpose research teach us about this and other concerns when making decisions about charity?

By Oren Shapira, Alex Shaw
May 06 2013
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior

Volunteerism: Helping People Act on Their Noble Intentions

Given the close link between volunteerism and a sense of purpose, it is no surprise that many people would like to dedicate more of their time to volunteering for their community. However, these good intentions often fail to translate to actual action. NPP’s Volunteerism agenda is recruiting behavioral science to address this intention-action gap.

By Oren Shapira, Rebecca White

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