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.
Resources See All Types »
The Misbehaving blog is the online companion to Richard Thaler’s “Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics.” Thaler has spent his career studying the radical notion that the central agents in the economy are humans―predictable, error-prone individuals. Misbehaving is his arresting, frequently hilarious account of the struggle to bring an academic discipline back down to earth―and change the way we think about economics, ourselves, and our world.
The Explicit and Implicit Ways of Overcoming Temptation
Fishbach, A., & Shen, L. (in press). The explicit and implicit ways of overcoming temptation. In J. W. Sherman, B. Gawronski, & Y., Trope, (Eds.), Dual process theories of the social mind. New York: Guilford Press.
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]
Boring but Important: A Self-Transcendent Purpose for Learning Fosters Academic Self-Regulation
Many important learning tasks feel uninteresting and tedious to learners. This research proposed that promoting a prosocial, self-transcendent purpose could improve academic self-regulation on such tasks. This proposal was supported in 4 studies with over 2,000 adolescents and young adults.
Yeager, D. S., Henderson M. D., Paunesku, D., Walton, G. M., D'Mello, S., Spitzer, B. J., Duckworth, A. L. (2014). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 107(4), 559-580. doi: 10.1037/a0037637
New Paths to Purpose Project Infographic
The Mere Reaction Effect: Even Non-positive and Non-informative Reactions Can Reinforce Actions
Building on and extending exiting research on feedback, learning and motivation, the current research studies the effect of reactions on actions, and finds that reactions per se are reinforcing (rewarding) even if the reactions are a priori non-positive and non-informative. Specifically, eight experiments, including a field experiment, demonstrate that individuals are more likely to repeat an action (e.g., inserting money in a donation box or typing a message in a textbox) if the action is followed by a reaction (e.g., the emission of a sound or the flash of an image) than if it is not, even if the reaction is a priori negative (e.g., an annoying sound or an aversive image) and carries no useful information. Moreover, the reaction effect described above will occur only if the reaction-serving stimulus is contingent on (immediately follows) the action. Finally, an a priori non-positive stimulus can become positive by merely serving as a reaction to one’s action. The present work yields theoretical implications for stimulus-response relationships and practical implications for designs of consumer products and loyalty programs.
Hsee, C. K., Yang, Y., Ruan, B. (2015). The mere reaction effect: Even non-positive and non-informative reactions can reinforce actions. Journal of Consumer Research, 42, 420-434.
If It’s Useful and You Know It, Do You Eat?
Marketers, educators, and caregivers often refer to instrumental benefits to convince preschoolers to eat (e.g., “This food will make you strong”). We propose that preschoolers infer that if food is instrumental to achieve a goal, it is less tasty, and therefore they consume less of it. Accordingly, we find that preschoolers (3–5.5 years old) rated crackers as less tasty and consumed fewer of them when the crackers were presented as instrumental to achieving a health goal (studies 1–2). In addition, preschoolers consumed fewer carrots and crackers when these were presented as instrumental to knowing how to read (study 3) and to count (studies 4–5). This research supports an inference account for the negative impact of certain persuasive messages on consumption: preschoolers who are exposed to one association (e.g., between eating carrots and intellectual performance) infer another association (e.g., between carrots and taste) must be weaker.
Maimaran, M., Fishbach, A. (2014). If It's Useful and You Know It, Do You Eat?: Preschoolers Refrain from Instrumental Food. Journal of Consumer Research, (41)3, 642-655. DOI: 10.1086/677224
Approach Aversion: Negative Hedonic Reactions Toward Approaching Stimuli
We live in a dynamic world, surrounded by moving stimuli—moving people, moving objects, and moving events. The current research proposes and finds an approach aversion effect—individuals feel less positively (or more negatively) about a stimulus if they perceive it to be approaching rather than receding or static. The effect appears general, occurring whether the stimulus is initially negative or nonnegative and whether it moves in space (toward or away from “here”), in time (toward or away from “now”), or in probability (toward or away from “sure”). This research complements extensive existing research on perceived static distance of stimuli (near vs. far) by exploring perceived dynamic movement of stimuli (approaching vs. receding), showing that the effect of movement is distinct from the effect of distance.
Hsee, C.K., Tu, Y., Lu, Z.Y., Ruan, B. (2014). Approach aversion: Negative hedonic reactions toward approaching stimuli. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 106, 699-712. doi: 10.1037/a0036332
Lay Rationalism: Individual Differences in Using Reason Versus Feelings to Guide Decisions
People have a lay notion of rationality—that is, the notion of using reason rather than feelings to guide decisions. Yet people differ in the degree to which they actually base their decisions on reason versus feelings. This individual difference variable is potentially general and important but is largely overlooked. The present research (1) introduces the construct of lay rationalism to capture this individual difference variable and distinguishes it from other individual difference variables; (2) develops a short, easy-to-implement scale to measure lay rationalism and demonstrates the validity and reliability of the scale; and (3) shows that lay rationalism, as measured by the scale, can predict a variety of consumer-relevant behaviors, including product preferences, savings decisions, and donation behaviors.
Hsee, C. K., Yang, Y., Zheng, X., Wang, H. (2014). Lay rationalism: Individual differences in using reason versus feelings to guide decisions. Journal of Marketing Research, (52)1, 134-146. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1509/jmr.13.0532