Empowering People through Behavioral Science

Overview AND GOALS

Purpose has long been considered among the most powerful and productive human forces. The notion of purpose captures the desire and effort that individuals put forth to accomplish their goals, make significant contributions to society, and maintain a meaningful existence. Naturally, the sense of purpose has been cited throughout history as a catalyst for exploration, as a wellspring of energy, and as a beacon for growth and fulfillment.

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.

We believe behavioral science can help.

Accordingly, this RFP aims to support both junior (e.g., pre-doctoral) and senior researchers in revealing hidden (e.g., unrecognized, counterintuitive, or underutilized) connections between behavioral science insights and the human experience of purpose.  Specifically, we are 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.

In setting the above goals for this competition, we will be advancing the following central aims of the New Paths to Purpose project: (1) Generate a new body of research that explores fundamental relationships between behavioral science and the nature, experience, and effects of purpose in human life; (2) Aid in the development of research-based tools, practices, and interventions that can promote the pursuit, experience, and fulfillment of purpose; and (3) Stimulate a discourse that will allow policymakers, leaders, and the general public to continually inspire and implement research on the potential for people to harness behavioral science so as to support purposeful experience.  

For more background on the project itself, please visit the "About" page.

Next section: General Information


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