Goal contents theory (Kasser & Ryan, 1993, 1996, 2001; Ryan & Deci, 2017) holds that intrinsic life goals (personal growth, relationships, community giving, and health) and extrinsic life goals (wealth, fame, and image) differentially relate to psychological well-being. Intrinsic life goals, or aspirations, inherently satisfy basic psychological needs and therefore promote optimal functioning, while an emphasis on extrinsic aspirations represents a reliance on external contingencies which, at best, only indirectly satisfies basic psychological needs. Despite abundant evidence supporting goal contents theory, positive links between extrinsic aspiring and well-being, observed particularly in Eastern European countries, have led some authors to contend that extrinsic aspirations may not be damaging in all contexts (Frost & Frost, 2000; Rijavec, Brdar, & Miljković, 2011). In addition, the frequently observed positive correlation between intrinsic and extrinsic aspirations suggests that they are not universally divergent. Indeed, consistent unexplained heterogeneity in the results indicates there are unobserved sources of heterogeneity in the data, suggesting there may be subgroups with distinct patterns of aspiring.
In Chapter 2 of this thesis, a meta-analysis of more than 1’000 effect sizes showed support for the universality of goal contents theory across countries, age groups, and socioeconomic statuses. In Chapters 3, 4, and 5, bifactor structural equation modelling (B-ESEM) was combined with latent profile analysis (LPA) in three large, independent samples from Hungary, Australia, and the United States of America, and derived three replicable profiles of aspiring. Chapters 4 and 5 showed that profile membership predicted additional variance in well-being, even in highly conservative tests that control for the aspirations that comprise the profiles. The profiles also differed in the breadth of their care for others. From Profile 1 to Profile 3, increasingly more (and more distal) others are central in the configurations of aspiring, starting with the self (Profile 1), then close others (Profile 2), and then the world in general (Profile 3). These studies make a unique contribution to the literature by synthesizing the available evidence and by identifying replicable latent profiles of aspiring that account for variance in well-being and other-oriented-ness over and above the constituent variables.