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Chicago Booth Receives $3.6 Million Grant For New Paths to Purpose Project

September 20, 2012

The University of Chicago Booth School of Business has received a $3.6 million grant to launch the New Paths to Purpose project, which will study how people can more effectively pursue and fulfill their stated purposes in life, the school announced today.

The grant from the John Templeton Foundation to the Chicago Booth Center for Decision Research will also fund studies on ways to increase the likelihood that people will follow through with their intention to perform volunteer work, and how people can infuse a greater sense of purpose into apparently mundane activities in their daily lives.

"This grant enables Booth faculty to use the rigorous tools of behavioral science to generate a foundation of knowledge about purpose, a dimension of human experience that is plainly important yet poorly understood," said Eugene Caruso, an associate professor of behavioral science at Booth and co-director of the project.

The expanded research activities also will put the Center for Decision Research at the center of a new network of scholars that will bring together multiple institutions, regions and academic disciplines to expand the behavioral study of purpose.

Caruso will use a portion of the Templeton funds to study how the pursuit and acquisition of money affects people's goals and attitudes, and how people can use the pursuit of wealth for the greater good.

"My colleagues and I are looking for ways to use empirical research to develop a new, broad and actionable paradigm for understanding the experience and fulfillment of purpose in human life," Caruso said.

Christopher Hsee, Theodore O. Yntema Professor of Behavioral Science and Marketing, will begin a study of why people, despite aspirations of leading purposeful lives, often do not take the initiative to follow through. Hsee also will look at ways that people can alter their behavior to create purpose in their daily lives.

Ayelet Fishbach, Jeffrey Breakenridge Keller Professor of Behavioral Science and Marketing, and George Wu, professor of behavioral science, will use the grant to study volunteerism and how reality often falls short of individuals' intentions. Wu and Fishbach also will look at ways to align intentions and actions.

Fishbach will conduct a separate study on motivation and how people push themselves toward purposeful living. She also will look at factors that can increase or decrease motivation.

The grant from the Templeton Foundation enables Booth faculty to expand the scale of their efforts to understand how situational forces shape people's choices and experiences.

The Center for Decision Research is the oldest academic center in the world devoted to the study of how individuals form judgments and make decisions. Researchers at the center examine the processes by which intuition, reasoning and social interaction produce beliefs, judgments and choices. Understanding how and why people make decisions has important applications in a range of contexts, including management, marketing, finance and public policy.

Richard Thaler, Ralph and Dorothy Keller Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics, is director of the New Paths to Purpose project, as well as the director of the Center for Decision Research.