Empowering People through Behavioral Science


In the spring of 2013, the second New Paths to Purpose Request for Proposals was announced.  With a budget pool of $250,000, the Center for Decision Research sought up to ten 18-month projects (with budgets of at least $10,000, but not more than $125,000) to be funded for a January 2014 start. The competition concluded on December 1, 2013, after over $8 million in funding requests had been considered. Ultimately, awards for three new projects were announced. See below for details.


Despite being thus deeply embedded in the human experience, purpose itself remains an opaque concept. It is remarkably difficult to explain just how it is that purpose functions as it does, or to identify how exactly purpose might be better and more broadly experienced. Although humanity has developed a great and growing body of knowledge about the workings of human thought, feeling, and behavior, we cannot yet readily specify which of these insights can account for the powerful allure, force, and impact of purpose in individuals' lives. Nor do we yet have clear options for translating those insights into concrete situational cues and choice architectures (Thaler & Sunstein, 2008) that will increase the effectiveness with which people discover, pursue, and fulfill their preferred purposes.

Accordingly, this RFP aimed to support researchers in revealing hidden (e.g., unrecognized, counterintuitive, or underutilized) connections between behavioral science insights and the human experience of purpose.  Specifically, we were looking to support:

  1. Purpose “Nudges” (following Thaler & Sunstein, 2008): Applied research demonstrating how basic behavioral science insights can be used in previously unrecognized or underutilized ways to create tools, interventions, etc. that help people more effectively experience (e.g., sense, adopt, pursue, fulfill) purpose.
  2. Basic research illustrating previously unrecognized or counterintuitive ways in which behavioral science phenomena (e.g., motivation and goal pursuit, attitudes and beliefs, understandings of the self and others, perception and judgment, happiness and well-being) can help to explain the ways in which people experience (e.g., sense, adopt, pursue, fulfill) purpose, or vice versa.


Click on the title of each funded project below for a brief description of the proposed work.

Design By: