Empowering People through Behavioral Science

Purpose & Well-Being

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 &Well-Being.

Work on Purpose & Well-Being recognizes that although purpose is commonly understood to be a source of deep personal fulfillment, little is known about just how individuals connect the sense, pursuit, and experience of purpose to their own well-being and happiness in everyday life.  To what extent do people accurately identify purposeful activities that are likely to improve their well-being? What factors promote the recognition of purposeful activity as an avenue to greater well-being? Under what conditions do people feel inspired and empowered to seek greater well-being through purposeful experience? See below for content related to our emerging insights.

Blog Posts More Blog Posts »

Mar 02 2016
Purpose & Wealth
Purpose & Well-Being
Purpose Across the Lifespan

The pain of uncertainty: Why people experience more physical pain during economical uncertainty

We all have experienced times of uncertainty about our finances, and we all know the anxiety and stress that economic uncertainty can bring. Whether we worry about keeping a job, or paying off debt, many of us have lost sleep over feeling economically unstable. But can economic uncertainty have even more far-reaching effects on us? Read here about the unexpected effects of economic uncertainty on our bodies, and why you might need more Advil if you ever lose your job.

By Janina Steinmetz
Feb 25 2016
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose & Well-Being
Purpose Across the Lifespan

A Little Bit of Gratitude Goes a Long Way Promoting Your Love Life

According to recent breakthrough from psychological science, it turns out that people’s romantic relationships can have huge impact on their physical health. As a matter of fact, in terms of ramifications, a pleasant romantic relationship can have the same effect on longevity that smoking 15 cigarettes a day can have on mortality. The upshot should be apparent: it pays to build and nurture a congenial romantic relationship. But what exact should we do to achieve such a desirable goal? The answer might surprise you a little to say the least.

By Haotian Zhou
Jan 31 2016
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose & Wealth
Purpose & Well-Being

Finding happiness by choosing time over money

Life is full of decisions, and many of these involve tradeoffs between time and money. We all sometimes lean in one direction and sometimes in the other, sometimes choosing the more expensive direct flight over the cheaper one with a layover to save time, but sometimes choosing to work some extra hours for some extra cash. But what if you’re someone who routinely chooses time over money? Find out how your decisions about time and money can shape your happiness.

By Janina Steinmetz

See more related blogs in our blog section.


News More News »

Oct 15 2015
Practical Tools for Purpose

Obama’s effort to ‘nudge’ America

(Politico) For the past year, the Obama administration has been running an experiment: Is it possible to make policy more effective by using psychology on citizens?

In the 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

See more related news in our news section.


Resources More Resources »

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Research Agendas More Research Agendas »

Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Purpose & Well-Being
Purpose Across the Lifespan
USING AUTHENTICITY TO INCREASE PURPOSE AND BELONGING AMONG UNDER-REPRESENTED MINORITY STUDENTS

Principal Investigator: Jenessa Shapiro,  Associate Professor of Psychology and Management, University of California at Los Angeles

Adjustment to college is difficult. As a result, many interventions, including student orientation efforts, aim to make this transition smoother to protect students’ grades, satisfaction with college, and retention. This is particularly important for under-represented racial/ethnic minority students. Under-representation leads students to worry about being seen through the lens of negative stereotypes about their group and to question their sense of fit and belonging in academic settings, which in turn undermines academic interest and performance, a phenomenon called stereotype threat. We propose that stereotype threat will also lead to a reduced sense of purpose: If you feel as though you do not belong in a particular context, it is difficult to derive a sense of purpose or meaningfulness from this context. We further propose that an authenticity intervention—an intervention that individuates students and celebrates their unique cultural backgrounds—will undermine multiple forms of stereotype threats, increase students’ feelings of purpose, and in turn increase well-being, satisfaction with the university, grades, and feelings of academic fit/belonging.

Purpose & Well-Being
THE ECONOMIC AND PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF CHRONIC PAIN AMONG LOW-INCOME WORKERS

Principal Investigator: Anuj K. Shah, Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science and Neubauer Family Faculty Fellow, University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Chronic physical pain is common among low-wage workers in developing countries and it has a widespread, negative effect on how these individuals meet daily demands. Not only does pain reduce life quality and well-being, but we predict that it also interferes with how people think, decide, and make a living. As a result, pain may create an important, if underappreciated, obstacle to purposeful living. This project takes the first steps toward understanding these effects, in hopes of building a foundation of knowledge that will enable people  who must contend with potentially debilitating chronic pain (in both developing and advanced economies) to restructure their environments in ways that protect and enhance their well-being, goal-pursuit, and the pursuit of purpose . 

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.

See more related research agendas in our research agendas section.


 
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