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.

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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
Aug 28 2015
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior

The Trick to Acting Heroically

(New York Times) WHAT causes people to risk their lives to help strangers?

In the News
Aug 24 2015
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior

The secret of extreme heroes: They don’t overthink

(Washington Post) We grow up being taught to look before we leap and think before we act, especially in dangerous situations. In its booklet on dealing with “active shooters,” the Department of Homeland Security lists confrontation as the “last resort,” after, among other things, taking note of the nearest exits and locking yourself in an office. Police tell us not to confront someone “armed and dangerous.” And our spouses and other loved ones tell us, “don’t be a hero.”

In the News
Jun 23 2015
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior

It Pays to Be Nice

(The Atlantic) Research labs, like most workplaces, come in two broad varieties: The cut-throat kind, where researchers are always throwing elbows in a quest for prestige, and the collaborative kind, where they work together for the good of the team. And when David Rand first established his Human Cooperation Lab at Yale University, he was clear about the kind of culture he wanted to promote.

In the News
May 15 2015
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior

How to Get People to Pitch In

(New York Times) LAST month Jerry Brown, the Democratic governor of California, issued the drought-racked state’s first-ever mandatory water reductions. “As Californians, we must pull together and save water in every way possible,” he said.

In the News
Jan 28 2015
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior

Theoretical support found for ‘authentic altruism’

(The Boston Globe) Everyone has been told that actions speak louder than words. But is it true? We rely more on the friend who agrees to help dig out our car out without hesitation than the one who only picks up the shovel after asking how deep it is buried in the snow. We trust the politician supporting a particular policy who hasn’t flip-flopped from a past clearly articulated stance. We care not just what people do, but what they think. Motives matter.

In the News
Oct 20 2014
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior

Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding?

(Slate) Hero means everything and nothing. It encompasses the firefighters who rushed into the burning twin towers, long-distance runners who compete through chronic disease, and the wag on Twitter who makes a point you agree with. The highly specific, armor-bright figure of classical myth has grown a thousand faces. We still want him around (DC Comics recently announced 10 new superhero films to unspool over the next six years, including one about a her: Wonder Woman), but his omnipresence makes him easy to mock. Part of our ambivalence may also stem from the suspicion that his noble deeds are not as selfless as they seem, motivated instead by a thirst for attention, rational egotism, or even masochism.

In the News
Oct 15 2014
Purpose & Prosocial Behavior

Heroes Act First, Think Later

(NY Magazine) Remember the subway hero? (Not the 30 Rock one.) Wesley Autrey saw a man fall onto the tracks, and without hesitating he jumped in front of a speeding train to save the stranger’s life. What drives a heroic act like this one: Is it a moment of conscious thought, to gather your nerve and bypass the fear? Or is it all instinct?

In the News

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