Purpose in Goal Pursuit
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 in Goal Pursuit.
The Purpose in Goal Pursuit theme focuses our attention on the situational or contextual factors that might influence people’s motivation to set, pursue, and accomplish their significant short- and long-term goals. How do such external influences (e.g., physical environment, social forces, peers) compare to and work with internal influences (e.g., self-control, moral identity, personal beliefs) in inspiring and facilitating the achievement of purpose? See below for content related to our emerging insights.
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How to Create New Paths to Purpose?
New Paths to Purpose is a project aimed at using behavioral science to transform how we think about and experience purpose - to scientifically explore how purpose may, much more than we recognize, reflect and propel everyday patterns of human thought and behavior. [Time: 1:40]
New Paths to Purpose: Project Descriptions
New Paths to Purpose is a project aimed at using behavioral science to transform how we think about and experience purpose - to scientifically explore how purpose may, much more than we recognize, reflect and propel everyday patterns of human thought and behavior. [Time 2:24]
New Paths to Purpose Project Infographic
Feeling Good at the Right Time
We investigate whether information on upcoming goal attainment spoils some of the benefits of attaining the goal, because people hold a script suggesting they should feel happy at the “right” time; that is, after the goal is attained. We find that people falsely recall sequences of events in a way that corresponds to a script of feeling happy upon goal attainment rather than upon learning that a goal will be attained (Study 1). The disruption of the goal-attainment script results in mellowed happiness and lower goal evaluation (Studies 2–4). We conclude that because of their expectation to feel happy only upon goal attainment, people experience mellowed positive emotion and goal evaluation when they learn that a goal will be attained. Reawakening positive emotion after having had early knowledge of goal attainment appears to be difficult.
Klein, N., Fishbach, A. (2014). Feeling good at the right time: Why people value predictability in goal attainment. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 55, 21-30. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2014.05.011
How Non-consumption Shapes Desire
How does nonconsumption shape desire? The proposed model suggests that desire depends on the length of nonconsumption of a good and the presence of salient alternatives, and that desire is at least partially constructed. In the absence of salient alternatives, a longer nonconsumption period results in stronger desire for the unconsumed good. However, in the presence of salient alternatives, individuals infer that they have developed new tastes, and thus a longer nonconsumption period results in a weaker desire for the unconsumed good. Five studies support this model across nonconsumption of various goods: food from home when attending college (study 1); chametz food during the Passover holiday (study 2); social media (i.e., abstaining from Facebook; study 3); and cultural foods (i.e., forgoing Japanese food, study 4; and Thai food, study 5). We discuss implications of our findings for when and how the experience of desire is constructed and situationally determined.
Dai, X., Fishbach, A. (2015). How non-consumption shapes desire. Journal of Consumer Research, 41, 936-952. DOI: 10.1086/678302
The Motivating-Uncertainty Effect
Can a reward of an uncertain magnitude be more motivating than a reward of a certain magnitude? This research documents the motivating-uncertainty effect and specifies when this effect occurs. People invest more effort, time, and money to qualify for an uncertain reward (e.g., a 50% chance at $2 and a 50% chance at $1) than a certain reward of a higher expected value (e.g., a 100% chance at $2). This effect arises only when people focus on the process of pursuing a reward, not when they focus on the outcome (the reward itself). When the focus is on the process of reward pursuit, uncertainty generates positive experience such as excitement and hence increases motivation. Four studies involving real rewards lend support to the motivating-uncertainty effect. This research carries theoretical implications for research on risk preference and motivation and practical implications for how to devise cost-efficient consumer incentive systems.
Shen, L., Fishbach, A., Hsee, C.K. (2015). The Motivating-uncertainty effect: Uncertainty increases resource investment in the process of reward pursuit. Jounral of Consumer Research, 41, 1301-1315.
How to Measure Motivation: A Guide for the Experimental Social Psychologist
This article examines cognitive, affective, and behavioral measures of motivation and reviews their use throughout the discipline of experimental social psychology. We distinguish between two dimensions of motivation (outcome-focused motivation and process-focused motivation). We discuss circumstances under which measures may help distinguish between different dimensions of motivation, as well as circumstances under which measures may capture different dimensions of motivation in similar ways. Furthermore, we examine situations in which various measures may capture fluctuations in non-motivational factors, such as learning or physiological depletion. This analysis seeks to advance research in experimental social psychology by highlighting the need for caution when selecting measures of motivation and when interpreting fluctuations captured by these measures.
Toure-Tillery, M., Fishbach, A. (2014). How to Measure Motivation: A Guide for the Experimental Social Psychologist. Social & Personality Psychology Compass, (8)7, 328-341. DOI: 10.1111/spc3.12110
Mechanisms of Motivation-Cognition Interaction: Challenges and Opportunities
Recent years have seen a rejuvenation of interest in studies of motivation–cognition interactions arising from many different areas of psychology and neuroscience. The present issue of Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience provides a sampling of some of the latest research from a number of these different areas. In this introductory article, we provide an overview of the current state of the field, in terms of key research developments and candidate neural mechanisms receiving focused investigation as potential sources of motivation–cognition interaction. However, our primary goal is conceptual: to highlight the distinct perspectives taken by different research areas, in terms of how motivation is defined, the relevant dimensions and dissociations that are emphasized, and the theoretical questions being targeted. Together, these distinctions present both challenges and opportunities for efforts aiming toward a more unified and cross-disciplinary approach. We identify a set of pressing research questions calling for this sort of cross-disciplinary approach, with the explicit goal of encouraging integrative and collaborative investigations directed toward them.
Braver, T.S., Krug, M.K., Chiew, K.S., Kool, W., Westbrook, J.A., Clement, N.J., Adcock, R.A., Barch, D.M., Botvinick, M.M. et al. (2014). Mechanisms of motivation-cognition interaction: Challenges and opportunities. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, (14)2, 443-472. DOI: 10.3758/s13415-014-0300-0
The Motivational Self is More than the Sum of Its Goals
I present evidence in favor of an overarching motivational self: a mental function that regulates expression of multiple goals. Goals often conflict with each other, and the role of a motivational self is to consciously or unconsciously prioritize pursuit of these goals. When observing inconsistency in expression of goals, it is therefore useful to consider whether the motivational self is attempting to balance between conflicting goals or if such inconsistency results from temporary self-control weakness.