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.

Blog Posts More Blog Posts »

Oct 29 2015
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior

The Secret to Building Rapport: What Extroverts Do That Introverts Don’t

Making friends is not always easy, but it seems to be more difficult for introverts than extroverts. Previous research has identified that the more extroverted you are, the happier you are and the more likely you are to be able to establish social rapport with others. But exactly what do extroverts have (or do) that introverts don’t to ease their social interactions? Recent research suggests that subconscious non-verbal behaviors may be the secret to the extroverts’ heightened ability to build rapport. 

By Brittany Christian
Oct 21 2015
Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior

Only humble wishes: How humility fosters self-control

We all love celebrities who still do their own laundry and go grocery shopping despite their multi-million dollar assets. We also admire the stars of sports who give all the credit for their successes to their teams. Humility seems especially endearing in times like these where unshakable confidence seems to be the key to get ahead. Humility undoubtedly makes people nicer and more pleasant to be around, but maybe being humble also benefits people in entirely unexpected ways. Read here what humility has to do with eating chocolate! 

By Janina Steinmetz
Aug 13 2015
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior
Purpose Across the Lifespan

The Way I See It: Emotions That Exacerbate Egocentrism

Mentally stepping into another person’s shoes is believed to be one of the most remarkably unique capabilities of the human mind. But, just because we can entertain other perspectives, doesn’t imply that it comes easily.  Inherently egocentric, we tend to be tightly laced in our own point of view and it often takes a few tricky mental maneuvers to get into someone else’s sneakers. What we might not realize, however, is that our own emotional states may undermine even the most sincere desires to connect with another person by understanding their point of view. Recent research identifies the types of emotions that exacerbate our natural tendency to (wrongly) assume everyone sees the world just as we do.

By Brittany Christian

See more related blogs in our blog section.


News More News »

Sep 22 2015
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior

Here’s Why Some People Are More Religious Than Others

(TIME) When it comes to predicting the kind of people most likely to be religious, brainiac scientists used to be everyone’s last guess. The more educated a person was, the thinking went, the more likely they were to question the supernatural. 

In the News
Sep 10 2015
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior

The corrosive effect of knowing your neighbor’s wealth

(CBS News) When it comes to income inequality, ignorance apparently is bliss.

In the News
Aug 29 2015
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior

Can You Be The Hero?

(Huffington Post) What does it take to be a hero? On a train, in a crowd, or in the quiet of your office? If you're ever in a situation of great peril or stress, can you step up and be the hero?

In the News

See more related news in our news section.


Resources More Resources »

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Purpose & Prosocial Behavior

Waste Management: How Reducing Partiality Can Promote Efficient Resource Allocation

Two central principles that guide resource-allocation decisions are equity (providing equal pay for equal work) and efficiency (not wasting resources). When these two principles conflict with one another, people will often waste resources to avoid inequity. We suggest that people wish to avoid inequity not because they find it inherently unfair, but because they want to avoid the appearance of partiality associated with it. We explore one way to reduce waste by reducing the perceived partiality of inequitable allocations. Specifically, we hypothesize that people will be more likely to favor an efficient (albeit inequitable) allocation if it puts them in a disadvantaged position than if it puts others in a disadvantaged position. To test this hypothesis, we asked participants to choose between giving some extra resource to one person (thereby creating inequity between this person and equally deserving others) and not giving the resource to anyone (thereby wasting the resource). Six studies, using realistic scenarios and behavioral paradigms, provide robust evidence for a self-disadvantaging effect: Allocators were consistently more likely to create inequity to avoid wasting resources when the resulting inequity would put them at a relative disadvantage than when it would put others at a relative disadvantage. We further find that this self-disadvantaging effect is a direct result of people's concern about appearing partial. Our findings suggest the importance of impartiality even in distributive justice, thereby bridging a gap between the distributive and procedural justice literatures.

Choshen-Hillel, S., Shaw, A., Caruso, E.M. (2015). Waste management: how reducing partiality can promote efficient resource allocation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 109, 210-231. doi: 10.1037/pspa0000028

 

Research Agendas More Research Agendas »

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 & 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

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

See more related research agendas in our research agendas section.


 
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