Empowering People through Behavioral Science

Practical Tools for Purpose

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: Practical Tools for Purpose.

With work on Practical Tools for Purpose, we acknowledge that although people routinely strive to achieve their intended goals and aspirations, they are not always as successful as they would like to be, and successful individual strategies for achieving intended goals are not readily translated to broader audiences. Accordingly, we ask: What tools would allow the benefits of purpose to be realized in policy, educational, medical, and organizational settings? What interventions—at the individual level, the group level, or the societal level—can best promote the adoption, pursuit, and achievement of purpose in human life? How can the impact of such interventions be quantified and sustained across time? See below for content related to our emerging insights.

Blog Posts More Blog Posts »

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
Dec 16 2015
Practical Tools for Purpose
Purpose & Well-Being
Purpose Across the Lifespan

Valuing negative emotions protects people from lasting health effects of bad moods

Although we all seek happiness, life also has negative things in store for us that make us angry, sad, or anxious. Experiencing these negative emotions frequently can harm one’s psychological health and physical well-being. However, some people seem almost immune against the harmful effects of negative emotions. These people also experience negative emotions, but they don’t suffer lasting consequences from that. But how do they stay healthy even when faced with negative emotional experiences? So what exactly is their secret?

By Janina Steinmetz

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Oct 31 2015
Practical Tools for Purpose

The Power of Nudges, for Good and Bad

(New York Times) Nudges, small design changes that can markedly affect individual behavior, have been catching on. These techniques rely on insights from behavioral science, and when used ethically, they can be very helpful. But we need to be sure that they aren’t being employed to sway people to make bad decisions that they will later regret.

In the 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
Oct 01 2015
Practical Tools for Purpose

For Empty Nesters, Spending May Trump Extra Saving

(Wall Street Journal) When children leave home, some parents splurge on travel and home projects. They don’t increase retirement saving much on average, a new study shows.

In the News

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Research Agendas More Research Agendas »

Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Practical Tools for Purpose
IT’S TEDIOUS BUT IT MATTERS: CAN PURPOSE PROMOTE THE GRIT REQUIRED TO BUILD MATH AND SCIENCE SKILLS?

Principal Investigator: David S. Yeager, Assistant Professor of Developmental Psychology, University of Texas at Austin

One roadblock to math and science achievement is the tedium of mastering foundational skills.  A common approach to removing this barrier is to change the educational environment so that it makes connections to intrinsic interests (e.g., “you can use Algebra to understand baseball statistics”).  Yet such approaches are limited because foundational schoolwork is often unavoidably tedious and uninteresting. The present research proposes that a purpose—a self-relevant goal that is seen as having positive consequences beyond the self—can create in learners a mindset in which tedious skill-building tasks are re-construed as relevant for accomplishing higher-order goals.  When viewing such tasks through the lens of a prosocial purpose, learners may exhibit greater grit—or persistence on these tasks even in the face of appealing alternatives—and may ultimately acquire more skills and perform at higher levels over time.

This project is funded by a subaward from the New Paths to Purpose project, as a result of our 2012 Request for Proposals

Purpose in Goal Pursuit
Practical Tools for Purpose
KEEPING PEOPLE MOTIVATED: USING TECHNOLOGY TO ENGAGE AND MOTIVATE

Principal Investigator: Dilip SomanCorus Chair in Communication Strategy and Professor of Marketing, University of Toronto Rotman School of Management

One manifestation of the concept of purpose is the motivation that individuals need to accomplish goals in their lives. In many undertakings, motivation is typically high at the beginning of the process (the “start-up enthusiasm”) and at the end (the “light at the end of the tunnel” effects) but there is a long and seemingly arduous middle phase that people don't navigate very well. The “middle slump” happens because of the perception of lack of progress, and a focus on the concrete details that need to be done rather than the abstract desirable outcome. We aim to develop and test a theoretically-informed framework to better understand the “middle slump” phenomena, and to develop a catalogue of interventions to help users navigate the middle slump. We further plan to create and test several smartphone apps that help people stay motivated.

This project is funded by a subaward from the New Paths to Purpose project, as a result of our 2012 Request for Proposals

Practical Tools for Purpose
NUDGING HEALTH: USING REALISTIC SIMULATIONS OF THE FUTURE TO MODIFY BEHAVIOR

Principal Investigator: Hal E. HershfieldAssistant Professor of Marketing, NYU Stern School of Business

In order to help people achieve healthier lives, previous work has explored pre-commitment devices (i.e., enacting future constraints on behavior), and also tried to change the ways that individuals think about future rewards. We take a different tack, one that deals not with present and future rewards, but with the connection between present and future selves. In line with thinkers who have suggested that people may fail to identify with their future selves through a lack of belief or imagination, we propose that enabling people to interact with realistic future simulations of themselves will cause them to more successfully pursue health as an important purpose of everyday life.

This project is funded by a subaward from the New Paths to Purpose project, as a result of our 2012 Request for Proposals

See more related research agendas in our research agendas section.


 
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