ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

People’s intentional pursuit of prosocial goals and values (i.e., well-doing) is critical to the flourishing of humanity in the long run. Understanding and promoting well-doing is a shared goal across many fields inside and outside of social and personality psychology. Several of these fields are (partially) disconnected from each other and could benefit from more integration of existing knowledge, interdisciplinary collaboration, and cross-fertilization. To foster the transfer and integration of knowledge across these different fields, we provide a brief overview with pointers to some of the key articles in each field, highlight connections, and introduce an integrative model of the psychological mechanisms of well-doing. We identify some gaps in the current understanding of well-doing, such as the paucity of research on well-doing with large and long-lasting positive consequences. Building on this analysis, we identify opportunities for high-impact research on well-doing in social and personality psychology, such as understanding and promoting the effective pursuit of highly impactful altruistic goals.
Content may be subject to copyright.
An interdisciplinary synthesis of research on understanding and promoting well-doing
Falk Lieder1, Mike Prentice1, Emily R. Corwin-Renner2
1Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Tübingen, Germany
2Hector Research Institute of Education Sciences and Psychology, University of Tübingen,
Germany
Correspondence:
Falk Lieder, Max Planck Ring 4, 72076 Tübingen, Germany
Email: falk.lieder@tuebingen.mpg.de
Running title:
Understanding and Promoting Well-Doing
Acknowledgements:
The authors would like to thank Will Fleeson, Brian Little, Ken Sheldon, Isabel Thielmann, Tim
Kasser, Marina Milyavskaya, and the members of the Rationality Enhancement Group for
helpful discussions and Peter Dayan, Quentin Huys, Igor Grossman, the members of the
Rationality Enhancement Group, and two anonymous reviewers for helpful feedback on
previous versions of this manuscript.
Conflict of Interest Statement:
The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare that are relevant to the content of this article.
1
An interdisciplinary synthesis of research on
understanding and promoting well-doing
Abstract
People’s intentional pursuit of prosocial goals and values (i.e., well-doing) is critical to the
flourishing of humanity in the long run. Understanding and promoting well-doing is a shared
goal across many fields inside and outside of social and personality psychology. Several of these
fields are (partially) disconnected from each other and could benefit from more integration of
existing knowledge, interdisciplinary collaboration, and cross-fertilization. To foster the transfer
and integration of knowledge across these different fields, we provide a brief overview with
pointers to some of the key articles in each field, highlight connections, and introduce an
integrative model of the psychological mechanisms of well-doing. We identify some gaps in the
current understanding of well-doing, such as the paucity of research on well-doing with large and
long-lasting positive consequences. Building on this analysis, we identify opportunities for high-
impact research on well-doing in social and personality psychology, such as understanding and
promoting the effective pursuit of highly impactful altruistic goals.
Keywords: well-doing; prosocial behavior; effective altruism; altruistic goals and values
2
Humanity has made tremendous moral, humanitarian, scientific, and technological progress over
the course of the past 500 years. The collective efforts of a few generations of people brought
about substantial reductions in violence (Pinker, 2011; Roser et al., 2016) and poverty (Roser &
Ortiz-Ospina, 2013) and significantly improved our quality of life along many dimensions (e.g.,
Roser, 2014; Roser & Ortiz-Ospina, 2013). How did we accomplish this impressive amount of
progress? Which psychological processes drove humanity forward? Which of them are essential
for human progress, and how can we promote them to solve the pressing problems we are facing
today (Messerli et al., 2019; United Nations, 2015)? These are some of the most crucial scientific
questions of our time. Insights relevant to answering these questions are currently spread across
many disparate literatures (Lieder & Prentice, in press). To promote the integration of knowledge
across these different literatures and to foster the cross-fertilization of ideas across their
respective communities, we review the relevant literatures in Section 1 and integrate some of
their findings in Section 2.
Different fields have approached different aspects of the psychology of human progress
from different angles. This has given rise to numerous constructs with varying definitions
(Pfattheicher et al., 2022; see Table 1). To foster integration across these different intellectual
traditions, we introduce a more general concept: thinking and acting in ways whose expected
causal consequences lead to a net increase in the sum total of the well-being of all humans and
animals that are alive today or will live in the future (see Table 1)
1
. In recognition of the
inspiring pioneering work of Little (2014, 2016) and Sheldon (2018), we refer to this concept as
well-doing. Crucially, our definition of well-doing weighs the well-being of all humans equally.
This also means that the well-being of distant others who will live in thousands of years counts
just as much as the well-being of a crying baby in the here and now and the person’s own well-
being.
2
Our definition of well-doing differs from standard definitions of prosocial behavior (see
Table 3; Pfattheicher et al., 2022) in two ways. First, prosocial behavior seeks to benefit one or a
few specific individuals in the here and now. By contrast, well-doing need not benefit anyone in
the here and now. Instead, all of its benefits could lie in the distant future and all of its
beneficiaries could be unknown distant others or non-human animals. Second, prosociality is
1
Our definition of well-doing is grounded in utilitarianism (see Table 1). However, studying well-doing does not
require one to subscribe to utilitarianism. This is because, unlike in the philosophical thought experiment known as
the trolley problem, utilitarianism is virtually always compatible with other moral theories in practice (Parfit, 2011).
2
This definition is based on the ideas of utilitarianism and longtermism summarized in Table 2.
3
defined in terms of the actor’s prosocial intent (e.g., to make someone feel better), whereas well-
doing is defined in terms of the net value of the activity’s consequences. Therefore, a prosocial
behavior, such as telling someone who made a mistake that everything is fine, is not well-doing
when it has negative unintended consequences (e.g., the person fails to learn from their mistake
and later repeats it to the great detriment of others) that outweigh its positive intended
consequences (e.g., the person feels better immediately). Conversely, well-doing includes many
beneficial pursuits people undertake without any prosocial intent, such as when a curiosity-
driven scientist produces an academic article whose findings are later applied to improve
people’s lives.
Some good deeds benefit the well-being of others more than a thousand times as much as
others that, intuitively, are at least as compelling (Ord, 2019). For instance, donating $1000 to a
charity that delivers an established treatment of HIV/AIDS (Kaposi sarcoma surgery) prolongs
one person’s life by the equivalent of 7 days at perfect health. By contrast, donating the same
amount to a charity that educates high-risk groups about HIV prevention, achieves gains
equivalent to 27 life years at perfect health. Either donation would constitute an act of well-
doing, but the second donation would be much more beneficial because the intervention it
supports is much more cost-effective (see Table 1). Some ways of thinking and acting are much
more likely to lead to such highly beneficial outcomes than others (Caviola et al., 2021;
Gainsburg et al., in press; see Section 3). We refer to the ways of thinking and acting that are
most likely to produce outcomes that are extremely beneficial to the long-term flourishing of
humanity as effective well-doing (see Table 1). Effective well-doing can be thought of as the
upper end of a continuum that also includes forms of well-doing that are moderately effective in
terms of the number of people they benefit (e.g., a local community or a workplace) or how
much it benefits those people.
While there are normative and prescriptive accounts of effective well-doing in the context
of philanthropy (MacAskill, 2015; Ord, 2019), the underlying psychological mechanisms are still
unclear, and we still know almost nothing about other equally important forms of effective well-
doing beyond philanthropy, such as the pursuit of altruistic goals over extended periods of time.
These knowledge gaps create opportunities for high-impact research for researchers from social
psychology, personality psychology, and other fields alike. We will outline these opportunities in
Section 4 and conclude with their implications.
4
Table 1
Definitions of key concepts from different fields as they are used in this article.
Concept
Definition
altruistic behavior
costly behavior that is exclusively (or at least primarily) motivated by
the desire to benefit one or more other people
character virtues
dispositional ways of wanting, thinking, feeling, and acting that are
conducive to the flourishing of humanity
compassion
wanting to alleviate that person’s suffering
cost-effectiveness
the amount of good that a charity does per dollar donated (e.g., number
of lives saved per $1000)
effective altruism
using reason and evidence to do the greatest good possible
effective well-
doing
thinking and acting in ways whose expected consequences are extremely
beneficial for the long-term flourishing of humanity and the biosphere
emotional empathy
feeling what another person might be feeling or will be feeling
eudaimonia
intentionally, mindfully, and autonomously pursuing intrinsic goals and
values in ways that are conducive to one’s own well-being
moral behavior
acting in line with (individual or cultural) moral values and principles
moral elevation
a positive emotion experienced when witnessing a virtuous act that
benefits the well-being of others
philanthropy
donating one’s money or time to promote the welfare of others
purpose
a larger, stable, and personally meaningful long-term goal to make a
difference in the world
sympathy
feeling sorrow or concern for another person based on inferences about
their situation or mental state
virtue
a stable disposition towards wanting, thinking, or feeling in a specific
morally good way (examples: honesty, fairness, rationality)
well-doing
thinking and acting such that, on average, the causal consequences result
in a net increase in the sum total of the well-being of all humans and
animals that are alive today or will live in the future
5
1. A brief overview of well-doing research in social and
personality psychology and other fields
Understanding and fostering socially beneficial behavior is a goal that many fields inside and
outside of social and personality psychology share (Lieder & Prentice, in press). As a
consequence, well-doing has been studied from many different perspectives (see Table 2).
Although most research on well-doing has focused on a relatively small set of common
behaviors, such as helping, pro-environmental behavior, advocacy, and giving to charity, well-
doing can take many different forms (see Table 3). The literatures studying these different
behaviors are sometimes disconnected. For instance, philosophers, moral psychologists, and
personality psychologists often conceptualize well-doing as enacted morality (Section 1.1). By
contrast, most developmental and social psychologists have focused on interpersonal forms of
well-doing that arise from prosocial emotions (Section 1.2). Largely unbeknownst to them,
researchers studying charitable giving have discovered that people’s well-doing is often
ineffective and investigated how people’s decisions about whom and how to help can be
improved (Section 1.3). Instead of attempting a comprehensive review, this section aims to
identify important gaps in the literature (Section 1.4) and provide the background information for
the following sections on the mechanisms of well-doing and their relative effectiveness.
1.1. Morality and its development
1.1.1. Moral philosophy
Philosophical accounts of what people should (not) do are often grouped into three categories.
Consequentialist accounts assume that an action’s moral value depends on its expected
consequences in the situation in which it is taken. Deontological accounts construe morality as
compliance with a fixed set of inviolable rules (see Table 2). Lastly, virtue ethics defines
morality in terms of the nature and quality of people’s motives, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
(Hursthouse & Pettigrove, 2018; see Table 2). According to the most influential version of
consequentialism (i.e., utilitarianism; see Table 2), people should act so as to bring about the
greatest good for as many beings as possible (Driver, 2014). This ideal combines the idea that the
well-being/suffering of all beings counts equally with an imperative for rational decision-
6
making. Together, these two ideas form the core philosophy of effective altruism (MacAskill,
2015; Greaves & Pummer, 2019).
1.1.2. Moral psychology and moral decision-making
The deontological and utilitarian perspectives on morality (see Table 2) correspond to
psychological mechanisms that make moral judgments based on emotions/intuitions versus
reasoning (Cushman, 2013; Greene et al., 2008). Cushman (2013) argued that the key difference
between rational versus intuitive/emotional mechanisms is that the former use reasoning to
evaluate actions according to the desirability of their likely consequences in a particular situation
whereas the latter exclusively rely on the action’s learned value. This reconceptualization
establishes a bridge between moral psychology and research on the computational and neural
mechanisms of decision-making and reinforcement learning (Niv, 2009; Dolan & Dayan, 2013;
Sutton & Barto, 2018). This connection can be leveraged to develop information-processing
models of moral decision-making and moral learning (see Table 2).
1.1.3. Moral development
Children’s moral behavior and moral reasoning change systematically as they develop into
mature adults (Eisenberg et al., 1995; Kohlberg, 1983). In particular, Kohlberg (1983) suggested
that children’s morality shifts from obedience and avoiding punishment to a deontological
conception of morality that emphasizes following general rules and social conventions, and
sometimes culminates in moral reasoning according to universal principles (e.g., utilitarianism).
One of the drivers of moral development is moral learning (see Table 2). According to Cushman
et al. (2017), there are at least three types of moral learning: learning moral values (e.g.,
Cushman, 2013), learning moral rules (e.g., Kleiman-Weiner et al., 2017), and learning how to
reason about ethical questions in a principled way (Kohlberg, 1969). Identifying the underlying
learning mechanisms may be a promising approach to understanding moral development.
1.1.4. Individual differences in morality
In studying moral development, Kohlberg (1983) noted that adults differ in the extent to which
they rely on principled moral reasoning. Since then, how morality differs across people has
become an active area of research in personality psychology (see Table 2). Research on moral
personality traits seeks to a) identify moral character traits, b) assess which personality traits are
7
relevant for moral behavior, and c) examine to which extent people want and are able to change
their moral character. Furr et al. (2022) proposed a measure of global moral character and
measures of a number of traits that are widely believed to be moral, such as compassion and
fairness. Research on which personality traits are important for moral behavior arrived at a
tripartite model of moral character composed of traits for consideration of others (such as
empathic concern), effective self-regulation (such as conscientiousness), and considering
morality an important part of one’s identity (e.g., Cohen et al., 2014). Recent research indicated
that, generally, people may not have a strong desire to change morally-relevant personality traits
(Sun & Goodwin, 2020), but they can and will when they receive feedback showing that they are
less moral than many other people (Thielmann & de Vries, 2021).
Table 2.
Multi-disciplinary perspectives on well-doing.
Perspective
Explanation
keywords
recommended
resources
Utilitarianism
The moral value of an
action lies in its expected
consequences for the total
well-being of all beings.
effective altruism
welfarism
consequentialism
MacAskill (2015)
Greaves & Pummer
(2019)
Longtermism
The effectiveness of well-
doing primarily depends on
its long-term consequences
because the future is much
longer than the present.
existential risk
effective altruism
population ethics
MacAskill (2022)
Greaves et al. (2021)
Ord (2020)
Deontology
Certain moral rules should
never be violated.
deontological ethics
moral rules
categorical imperative
Alexander & Moore
(2020), Levine et al.
(2020)
Virtue ethics
Good moral character is
crucial for well-doing. To
promote well-doing, we
should help people cultivate
good moral character.
virtue, phronesis,
vices, eudaimonia,
practical wisdom,
moral virtue, character
strengths
Hursthouse &
Pettigrove (2018)
Fowers et al. (2021),
Kristjánsson (2015)
Moral
personality
People differ in their
dispositions to think, feel,
and behave in specific
(un)ethical ways.
moral character, moral
traits, consideration of
others, moral identity,
self-regulation, moral
exemplars
Cohen & Morse
(2014), Luke et al.
(2021), Furr et al.
(2022), Thielmann et
al. (2020)
Social
interaction
Well-doing is often a social
endeavor that arises from
prosocial behavior
Eisenberg (2014),
Eisenberg et al.
8
the intra- and inter-personal
mechanisms of social
interaction.
helping, comforting,
cooperation, sharing,
reciprocity, reputation
(2015), Keltner et al.,
(2014), Dunfield
(2014)
Prosocial &
moral
emotions
Much of human well-doing
is motivated by prosocial
and moral emotions.
empathy, compassion,
love, gratitude, moral
elevation, warm glow
of altruism
Keltner et al. (2014),
Eisenberg et al.
(2015), Aknin et al.
(2018), Cavanaugh et
al. (2015)
Information
processing
Recreating the mental
mechanisms of well-doing
with mathematical models
will help us understand
them more deeply. What are
the mental representations
and algorithms that give rise
to (effective) well-doing?
moral reasoning
cognitive mechanisms
dual-process theory
heuristics and biases
resource rationality
reinforcement learning
Levine et al. (2021),
Cushman (2013),
Engelmann &
Waldmann (2022),
Agrawal et al. (2020),
Levine et al. (2020),
Lieder & Griffiths
(2020), Wallach et al.,
(2010)
Moral
learning
The mechanisms of morality
(and well-doing) are learned
from experience and other
people.
moral learning,
reinforcement
learning, social
learning
Cushman et al.,
(2017); Grossmann et
al., 2021
Goals and
values
Well-doing often results
from the pursuit of socially
beneficial goals and values
prosocial values,
prosocial motivation,
social value
orientation, altruism,
personal projects
analysis
Grouzet et al. (2005),
Schwartz (2012),
Milyavskaya &
Werner (2021),
McGregor & Little
(1998),
Designing
(educational)
interventions
How can we motivate and
enable people to engage in
effective well-doing?
nudging, boosting
character education
behavior change
mechanism design
Thaler & Sunstein
(2021), Hertwig &
Grüne-Yanoff (2017),
Saeri et al, (2022),
Kristjánsson (2015)
Evolution
The mechanisms of well-
doing evolved because they
increased the evolutionary
fitness to groups of
genetically related
individuals.
evolutionary
psychology
evolution of
altruism/cooperation
kin/group selection
Jaeger & van Vugt
(2022), Burum et al.
(2020), Kurzban et al.,
(2015), Buss (1995),
Axelrod & Hamilton
(1981); Nowak (2006)
Prosocial
development
and moral
development
How and why does
prosocial/moral behavior
change throughout the
lifespan?
moral stage theory
prosocial development
generativity
Kohlberg (1983),
Giammarco (2016),
Eisenberg et al.
(2015a-b), McAdams
& Logan (2004),
Group-level
processes
Well-doing is produced by
group-level processes, such
reputation systems
social networks
Simpson & Willer
(2015), Fehr &
9
as reputation systems and
group identity.
group identity, game
theory
Fischbacher (2003),
Chen & Li (2009)
Cultural
norms and
values
People’s well-doing is
guided by their culture’s
norms, values, and beliefs.
social norms
altruistic punishment
religious prosociality
Fehr & Fischbacher
(2004), Henrich et al.,
(2005), Preston et al.,
(2010), Shariff (2015)
1.2. Prosociality: behavior, emotions, goals, and values
1.2.1. Prosocial behavior and prosocial emotions
Prosocial behavior is voluntary behavior intended to benefit one or more other people
(Eisenberg, Spinrad, & Knafo-Noam, 2015), such as helping, comforting, and sharing (Dunfield,
2014). It may be motivated by self-interest, altruism, or both. Prosocial behavior is thought to
primarily arise when situational factors trigger empathy, sympathy, or compassion (see Table 1).
However, it can also arise from the application of moral rules or moral reasoning (Greene, 2015),
or from prosocial goals ranging from short-term goals to a prosocial life purpose (Damon, 2009;
Wentzel et al., 2007). For more information on the mechanisms of prosocial behavior, see
Section 2 and Table 2.
1.2.2. Prosocial goals and values
One of the most sustainable sources of well-doing are people’s core personal projects (Little,
2014, 2016), that is the pursuit of the personal goals they are most committed to. The benefits of
those pursuits depend, to some extent, on their underlying goals and values. Materialistic values
and goals, such as amassing great wealth or being physically attractive, stand in motivational
conflict with prosocial values and goals, such as affiliation and contributing to the community
(Grouzet et al., 2005; Schwartz, 1992). The extent to which a person endorses either type of
values is predictive of their behavior (Kasser, 2016). For example, materialism is associated with
compulsive buying (Dittmar et al., 2014) and large ecological footprints (Hurst et al., 2013),
whereas, prosocial values are predictive of helping others and other forms of well-doing
(Sheldon & Kasser, 1995). From the perspective of promoting the long-term flourishing of
humanity, the tension between materialistic versus prosocial values is particularly relevant when
limited communal resources have to be shared and preserved for the future. Studies mimicking
such dilemmas using economic games have revealed that more materialistic groups perform
10
worse at resource preservation than comparatively prosocial ones (Sheldon et al., 2000).
Although people’s values appear to be quite stable across the lifespan, certain life experiences
and some psychological interventions can change how much importance people place on specific
values (Hope et al., 2014; Jin & Rounds, 2012; Schuster et al., 2019). For instance, people can be
successfully guided to convince themselves to care more about the well-being of others (Arieli et
al., 2014).
1.2.3. Purpose and eudaimonia
Making progress on valued personal goals is crucial for people’s well-being (Little, 2014, 2016).
The epitome of this idea is eudaimonia (see Table 1), that is pursuing personally meaningful
prosocial and altruistic goals and values freely, intentionally, and mindfully (Ryan et al., 2008;
Martela & Sheldon, 2019). Such pursuits are uniquely conducive to well-being because they
fulfill people’s psychological needs better than pursuing happiness directly (Sheldon, 2018;
Sheldon et al., 2019). Having a prosocial purpose in life (see Table 1), such as making high-
quality education available to everyone around the world for free, is a core component of
eudaimonia (Reker et al., 1987, Ryff & Singer, 2008).
Because purpose is a stable long-term goal, it can be powerful driver of sustained well-
doing (Bronk et al., 2019; Shek et al., 1994). But only 20%-25% of adolescents and 40%-50% of
30-year-olds report having a purpose (Damon & Malin, 2020). Purpose is thought to develop
when people discover that the world can and should be improved in ways that match their special
interests (Malin et al., 2015). Factors facilitating the development of purpose include seizing
opportunities to do something about one’s concerns about the world and reflecting on one’s
future in the light of such pursuits (Malin et al., 2015), observing respected people pursue a
purpose (Damon, 2009), and being supported in one’s prosocial pursuits (Moran et al., 2013).
Recent evidence suggests that the development of purpose can be promoted through scalable
psychological interventions (Baumsteiger, 2019; Bronk et al., 2019).
1.3. How effective is people’s well-doing and why?
The fact that some good deeds are much more impactful than others raises the question of how
good people are at identifying, choosing, and pursuing opportunities for effective well-doing.
11
This question has been most extensively studied in the domain of philanthropy (see Table 1).
Research has found that most charities choose activities that are relatively ineffective compared
to their best alternatives or are even harmful (MacAskill, 2015). Moreover, young people who
are motivated to save lives often embark on a career in clinical medicine even though, in the first
world, the increase in the number of lives saved per additional medical doctor is very small
compared to the number of lives saved per skilled person entering biomedical research, public
health, or health policy (Todd, 2016).
3
Furthermore, when people donate money to charity, they
usually choose charities with low cost-effectiveness (Baron & Greene, 1996; Kahneman et al.,
1999; Berman et al., 2018; Caviola et al., 2021). The prevalence of ineffective well-doing in the
work of philanthropic organizations, career choice, and charitable giving suggests that even well-
intended people are often not very good at deciding how to do good. This raises the question of
why people’s well-doing tends to be so ineffective.
Several authors have proposed evolutionary explanations for the prevalence of ineffective
well-doing (Burum et al., 2020; Jaeger & van Vugt, 2022; see Table 2). Moreover, psychological
research has identified three types of obstacles to effective well-doing (Caviola et al., 2021):
conflicting motives and limited altruism, systematic errors in judgment and decision-making, and
limited information and inaccurate beliefs (Caviola et al., 2020a). Why do people base their well-
doing on limited information when they could inform themselves better? One proximal reason is
that they rarely proactively set out to rationally identify the most effective way to do good.
Rather, most of the time, most people merely react to opportunities spontaneously. For instance,
85% of all charitable donations are made in reaction to solicitation (Bryant et al., 2003). When
their donation is solicited, people often immediately react to emotional appeals, such as the
image of a suffering child, or a persuasive message without researching potentially more
effective alternatives first. As a consequence, many donors never research what the world’s most
effective charities are. This may be partly caused by people not knowing that some charities are
orders of magnitude more effective than others (Caviola et al., 2020b).
And what prevents people from proactively setting out to identity the best way to do
good? One plausible reason is that many people are not striving for effective well-doing in the
first place. It has been argued that pure altruism (see Table 1) is rare and that most donations are
3
Furthermore, someone with the personal and intellectual qualities required for a medical career could
probably do even more good outside of medicine (Todd, 2016).
12
motivated by their reputational, social, personal, and psychological benefits, such as the warm
feelings many people derive from donating (Andreoni, 1989, 1990). Unfortunately, those
benefits are largely independent of the effectiveness of a charitable contribution (Burum et al.,
2020). Consequently, when people help others, they are much less likely to select an effective
solution than when they are helping themselves or their family (Burum et al., 2020).
One reason why people fail to select effective solutions unless they are highly motivated
is that good decision-making is more effortful than relying on emotions and intuition (Evans,
2010). People’s reliance on intuitive mechanisms leads to many systematic errors that can be
highly consequential (Caviola et al., 2021; Jaeger & van Vugt, 2022; Lewis & Small, 2019). For
instance, as the number of lives alternative humanitarian interventions could save grows into the
thousands, people’s intuition about which intervention is better becomes increasingly numb to
how many lives it saves (Fetherstonhaugh et al., 1997; Västfjäll et al., 2015)
4
. Relatedly, many
people have the incorrect intuition that a donation that saves one life for sure is better than a
donation that has a 10% chance of saving 100 lives, even though the latter donation is ten times
as effective in the long-run (Caviola et al., 2021).
5
1.4. Some gaps in the literature
Previous research on (in)effective well-doing was primarily conducted in the domain of
charitable giving (Caviola et al., 2020a). Its results might also be applicable to other forms of
well-doing (see Table 3). However, so far, there is very little (psychological) research on the
(in)effectiveness of people’s well-doing in other areas. Relatedly, most research is being
conducted on common forms of well-doing, such as helping, pro-environmental behavior, and
comforting (Dunfield, 2014; see Table 3), even though many less-common forms of well-doing
are more impactful (see Table 3). In particular, there is still almost no research on people
proactively embarking on and successfully pursuing highly impactful projects that make the
world a better place (i.e., changemaking; see Table 3), such as preventing future pandemics.
There is even less research on educators’ and activists’ efforts to motivate and enable others to
4
This might be partly because the reputational benefits of helping more people are only minimally higher than the
reputational benefits of helping fewer people. However, similar effects also occur in value-free perceptual
judgments (Fechner, 1860) and self-interested decision-making (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979).
5
This is especially remarkable given that people tend to overweight – rather than underweight – small probabilities
of personal gains, such as winning the lottery (Markowitz, 1952).
13
change society for the better (i.e., metachangemaking; see Table 3), such as teaching pro-
democracy activists how to achieve social change without resorting to violence.
Far-sighted, proactive pursuits likely arise from qualitatively different psychological
mechanisms, such as setting and pursuing socially-beneficial long-term goals (cf. Section 1.2.2-
1.2.3). Those mechanisms deserve greater scientific attention. Relatedly, research on prosocial
behavior has primarily focused on socio-emotional mechanisms and paid comparatively little
attention to more rational mechanisms (cf. Section 1.1 vs. Section 1.2.1). We believe that
investigating far-sighted, proactive, and rational mechanisms of well-doing is fundamental to
addressing the crucial open question of why some people make much larger humanitarian
contributions (e.g., saving millions of lives; MacAskill, 2015; Table 3) than most people who are
similarly privileged, qualified, caring, and empathetic (see Section 1.3). Moreover, there is still
very little research on why and how some people develop the capacity and motivation to make
such exceptionally large humanitarian contributions (see Section 1.2.3). Last but not least, our
understanding of well-doing and prosocial development is still not nearly as mechanistic as the
current understanding of cognitive and computational mechanisms of more basic forms of
decision-making. The emerging connection between cognitive science and research on morality
and prosocial behavior (Cushman, 2013; Cushman et al., 2017; Caviola et al., 2021; Lieder &
Prentice, in press) creates a great opportunity for leveraging theories, methods, and information-
processing models that were originally developed in research on decision-making and
reinforcement learning (see Table 2) to elucidate the mechanisms of well-doing and prosocial
development.
To help researchers close these gaps in our understanding of well-doing, the following
section introduces an integrative model of the potential mechanisms of well-doing and their
interactions. This model is intended as a guide to investigating previously neglected mechanisms,
generating new hypotheses, and interpreting findings in the light of what is known in other areas.
14
Table 3
Overview of some of the different behavioral expressions that well-doing can take. Note that not
all instances of those behaviors are necessarily well-doing. The behaviors that we believe are
most neglected by academic research are listed first.
Behavior
Explanation
Recommended Resources
Meta-
changemaking
Cultivating people’s capacity and
motivation to bring about positive change
in the world (changemaking) or
(indirectly) enabling others to do so
Reynante et al. (2022)
Pursuing a career
with a high positive
social impact
Strategically selecting a career path that
affords opportunities for effective well-
doing and seizing those opportunities
(e.g., AI safety research or grantmaking)
Todd (2016)
Changemaking
Working towards positive cultural or
institutional changes (e.g., through social
activism or social entrepreneurship)
Chenoweth & Stephan
(2011)
Entrepreneurial
Philanthropy
Pursuit of big social objectives through
the active, strategic investment of large
amounts of financial and social resources
Gordon et al. (2015)
Altruistic
punishment
Punishing others for violating social
norms of cooperation (e.g. by reporting
or prosecuting tax evasion, fraud, or
misconduct). People do so even when it
is costly and does not benefit them.
Fehr & Gächter (2002)
Egas & Riedl (2008)
Whistleblowing
Exposing wrongdoing or unethical
behavior that has occurred within an
organization
Mesmer-Magnus &
Viswesvaran (2005),
Dungan et al. (2015)
Volunteering
Donating one’s time to a good cause.
Wilson (2000)
Comforting
Alleviating another person’s feelings of
grief or distress
Dunfield (2014)
Vaish et al. (2009)
Charitable giving
Donating money to a philanthropic
organization
Bekkers & Wiepking (2011)
Pursuing socially-
beneficial goals
Pursuing personal projects that
(in)directly benefit others (and typically
increase one’s own well-being)
Niemiec et al. (2009)
Little et al. (2017)
Social
Entrepreneurship
Founding and leading an organization
that addresses social, cultural, or
environmental issues to benefit society.
Peredo & McLean (2006)
Shier & Handy (2015)
Advocacy
Activities designed to influence the
decisions of political, economic, or social
institutions
Almog-Bar & Schmid
(2014),
Child & Gronbjerg (2007),
Guo & Saxton (2014)
15
Pro-environmental
behavior
Actions taken to protect the environment
or to limit one’s negative impact on the
environment
Schultz & Kaiser (2012)
Jones (2000)
Helping
Supporting others in the pursuit of their
goals
Eisenberg et al. (2015)
Dovidio (1984)
2. Psychological mechanisms of well-doing
2.1. An integrative model of social-psychological, emotional, moral,
cognitive, and agentic mechanisms of well-doing
Previous research has identified a number of mechanisms of well-doing. As illustrated in
Figure 1, we propose that these mechanisms can be grouped into two categories: proactive
mechanisms and reactive mechanisms. Reactive mechanisms are triggered by external situational
factors, such as a request for help, whereas proactive mechanisms originate from internal
psychological factors, such as someone’s goals, identity, or moral principles.
Reactive and proactive mechanisms interact with each other in at least two ways. First, a
person’s psychological reaction to a situation that exposes other people’s needs may trigger the
creation of goals and intentions that will later be pursued by proactive mechanisms (e.g., Malin
et al., 2015). Second, people may proactively think about how they want to react to certain types
of situations in the future or strategically change their environment in such a way that reactive
mechanisms lead to more desirable outcomes and fewer undesirable outcomes (Duckworth et al.,
2016).
Both proactive and reactive mechanisms are malleable because they are shaped by
learning. Proactive mechanisms are, for instance, shaped by people learning when to pursue
which goal (Cushman & Morris, 2015), how much to focus on their current goal (Lieder et al.,
2018; Bustamante et al., 2021), and whether and how they engage in planning (He et al., 2021a,
2021b). Reactive mechanisms are shaped by habit formation and learning from previous positive
or negative outcomes. That is, our reactions become automatized with repetition (Miller et al.,
2019). Moreover, our (un)favorable intuitive reactions to potential actions are partly learned
from the outcomes those actions had in the past (Cushman, 2013).
16
Figure 1. The two main classes of mechanisms of well-doing and their tentative associations with
different types of well-doing. Information related to proactive mechanisms is highlighted in blue.
Information related to reactive mechanisms is highlighted in red. Two forms of learning that shape how
these mechanisms operate are shown in yellow.
2.2. Reactive mechanisms
As illustrated in Figure 2, we propose three categories of reactive mechanisms: socio-
psychological mechanisms, emotional mechanisms, and moral mechanisms
6
. The socio-
psychological and emotional mechanisms of well-doing been extensively studied from the
perspective of social interaction and group-level processes (see Table 2) in the context of
prosocial behavior (Section 1.2). In a given socio-cultural context, a person may choose to
engage in well-doing by imitating another person, responding to another person's need, reacting
to a request, complying with a social norm, or reciprocating a favor. According to Keltner et al.
(2014), the socio-psychological mechanisms underlying these choices perform an implicit cost-
6
Social cognition, emotion, and morality do, of course, also contribute to the proactive mechanisms of
well-doing described in Section 2.3.
17
benefit analysis. That is, people decide whether or not to help others in a given socio-cultural
context by weighing the costs of helping against the benefits that helping confers to themselves
and the people they might help. Another important factor people consider are the interpersonal
costs of refusing to help. The (inter)personal benefits that people may assess include that giving
feels good, increases social status, and encourages reciprocity. The costs of inaction people may
assess include reputational damage through gossip, the risk of being punished for violating social
norms, and feelings of guilt. All of these factors are assessed by intuitive judgments. Critically,
unlike some moral mechanisms, the intuitive judgments of socio-psychological mechanisms
weigh the well-being of the potential beneficiary according to factors such as ingroup versus
outgroup membership, perceived similarity to oneself, and perceived competition. The person’s
broader socio-cultural environment (see Table 2) informs these judgments through social norms,
pressure to conform to prevailing customs, demonstrations of prosocial behavior that the person
may want to imitate, and favors that the person may want to reciprocate.
People's intuitive judgments are often swayed by emotions (Haidt, 2001). In addition to
this indirect effect on well-doing, emotional mechanisms, such as empathy (Batson, 2010; see
Table 1) and positive affect (Aknin et al., 2018; Cavanaugh et al., 2015), can also trigger well-
doing directly (see Figure 2). Among the many positive emotions, gratitude (Bartlett & DeSteno,
2006), love (Cavanaugh et al., 2015), and moral elevation (see Table 1; Haidt, 2003a-b; Landis
et al., 2009; Schnall et al., 2010 Thomson & Siegel, 2013) appear to be especially conducive to
well-doing.
As illustrated in Figure 2, perceiving that another person is in need may trigger one or
more of four emotional responses: emotional empathy, emotional distress, compassion, and the
anticipation of feeling good about helping (i.e., the warm glow of altruism). Emotional empathy
for another person's suffering often triggers the desire to help alleviate their suffering (i.e.,
compassion), which can be a strong motive for well-doing (Batson, 2010; Batson et al., 1981,
2002). Whether and to which extent a person experiences emotional empathy and compassion for
another person is partly driven by the intuitive judgments produced by the socio-psychological
mechanisms described above. Those judgments depend on what the person attends to, how they
interpret the situation, whether they identify opportunities for helping, whether they think they
are capable of helping, and how their decision-making process weights the potential benefit to
others against conflicting personal goals and the cost of helping (Eisenberg et al., 2015).
18
As illustrated in Figure 2, well-doing can also be motivated by the desire to make oneself
feel better. This effect may occur through one of two routes. First, witnessing suffering can
trigger emotional distress. The desire to relieve oneself from this distress in order to feel better
can motivate well-doing independently of compassion or empathy (Eisenberg, 1991). The
strength of this effect depends on the person's emotional sensitivity and emotion-regulation
skills. Second, the desire to feel better may be fueled by the anticipation of the warm glow of
altruism (Andreoni, 1990; Crumpler & Grossman, 2008). This can happen even if the person
does not feel any emotional distress, compassion, or empathy. The anticipation of the warm glow
of altruism and the experience of compassion can be informed by the moral mechanisms
described in the next paragraph.
A person’s emotions can also be informed by moral considerations (Huebner et al., 2009;
see Section 1.1). However, as illustrated in Figure 2, moral mechanisms are only triggered when
the person perceives the situation as morally relevant (Luke et al., 2021). Moral mechanisms rely
more strongly on reasoning (Richardson, 2018; Turiel, 2010) than either the emotional or socio-
psychological mechanisms. To determine whether an action is right or wrong (moral judgment),
a person may reason according to utilitarian or deontic principles (see Section 1.1 and Table 2).
Utilitarian reasoning evaluates the action’s expected impact according to the person’s moral
values. Deontic reasoning applies the person’s moral principles for discerning good from evil to
the present situation. However, people’s moral judgments and reasoning can also be influenced
by their emotions (Haidt, 2003a-b). How consequential a person’s moral judgments are for their
actions depends on the strength of their moral identity and moral courage (Luke et al., 2021). As
reviewed by Luke et al. (2021), these and other determinants of moral behavior are shaped by
several moral personality traits.
19
Figure 2. The reactive mechanisms of well-doing can be divided into three categories: socio-
psychological mechanisms (blue), emotional mechanisms (red), and moral mechanisms (yellow).
20
2.3. Proactive mechanisms
In contrast to reactive well-doing, proactive well-doing often involves temporally extended
behavior directed toward socially beneficial goals. Therefore, proactive well-doing can be
understood as self-initiated goal-setting and goal-pursuit in the service of the greater good.
Research on proactive well-doing can therefore draw on theories, models, and methods for
studying goal-directed behavior that have been developed in other areas of psychology (Carver
& Scheier, 2001; McGregor & Little, 1998; Milyavskaya & Werner, 2018, 2021; Lieder &
Iwama, 2021; Prystawski et al., 2021; Gagné, 2003; Peetz & Milyavskaya, 2021; Weinstein &
Ryan, 2010). In particular, we already know that people’s goals are often organized
hierarchically (Carver & Scheier, 2001). If a person has found a life purpose (Bronk, 2013;
Frankl, 1985; see Section 1.2.3), it will be located at the top of a goal hierarchy. The subsequent
levels of the goal hierarchy serve to translate this abstract, long-term goal into a series of
increasingly more concrete and more proximal goals that bottoms out in actionable plans and
intentions for concrete action.
As illustrated in Figure 3, the defining element of the proactive mechanisms is imagining
and evaluating potential futures (i.e., prospection). Prospection is a crucial part of the process
through which goal hierarchies are constructed. It can help people translate their prosocial values
into a life purpose (see Section 1.2.3), derive goals from it, plan how to achieve them, and select
appropriate actions (Morisano et al., 2010). Therefore, which futures people imagine and how
they evaluate them can significantly impact their goals, plans, and actions (Morisano et al., 2010;
Jähnichen et al., 2022; Prentice et al., 2022). Which futures people imagine is informed by their
beliefs, plans, goals, values, and moral principles (Phillips et al., 2019). People then evaluate the
desirability of those potential futures according to their moral values. Moreover, compassion,
concern, or empathy for people’s suffering in those imagined futures can motivate people to set
altruistic long-term goals, such as preventing nuclear war and stopping global warming.
21
Figure 3. Proactive mechanisms of well-doing. The yellow arrows illustrate the process of
hierarchical goal setting and goal pursuit.
Although proactive well-doing is less dependent on external factors than reactive well-
doing, it is still shaped by the socio-cultural factors through mechanisms such as the cultural
transmission of prosocial values (Bekkers, 2007; Cipriani et al., 2013; Rohan & Zanna, 1996)
and situational cues that trigger the habitual pursuit of prosocial goals (Cushman & Morris,
2015).
Our taxonomy of different types of well-doing mechanisms raises a number of interesting
questions. Do different mechanisms lead to different types of well-doing? Are some of them
more conducive to effective well-doing than others? If so, which mechanisms are responsible for
ineffective well-doing (Section 1.3), and which mechanisms should we target when we design
psychological interventions to promote (effective) well-doing? In the following sections we
discuss these questions (Section 3) and derive implications for future research (Sections 4-5).
22
3. Some mechanisms lead to more socially beneficial
decisions than others
Distinguishing among the mechanisms that can give rise to well-doing is important
because some may be much more conducive to effective well-doing than others. This is likely
true of both the distinction between proactive versus reactive mechanisms (see Figure 1) and the
distinction between different types of reactive mechanisms (see Figure 2). The reactive
mechanisms described in Section 2.2 often lead to relatively brief and immediately beneficial
prosocial activities, such as comforting a crying child by buying them the toy they desire. By
contrast, the proactive mechanisms described in Section 2.3 (see Figure 2) can give rise to the
pursuit of bigger, long-term projects, such as Greta Thunberg’s efforts to stop global warming.
Because proactive mechanisms involve prospection, they can motivate far-sighted pursuits that
benefit people who are out-of-sight, including future generation and distant others, the biosphere,
and abstract causes, such as increasing human knowledge or fostering moral progress. Proactive
mechanisms are therefore more likely to lead to potentially large, long-term benefits for
humanity and the biosphere than reactive mechanisms. Certain reactive mechanisms, by contrast,
may be responsible for many ineffective forms of well-doing (see Section 1.3).
Distinguishing between the different types of reactive mechanisms surveyed in Section
2.2 (see Figure 2) is also important. In particular, recent findings suggest that moral mechanisms
and compassion might be much more conducive to effective well-doing than other emotional
mechanisms. For instance, Jordan et al. (2016) found that emotional empathy is less conducive to
effective well-doing than compassion plus utilitarian moral reasoning (see Figure 2), which they
refer to as rational compassion. Higher levels of rational compassion fostered charitable
donations to people in need. By contrast, people with heightened emotional empathy often turned
away from donating to people in need to avoid the heightened emotional distress caused by
feeling other’s suffering more intensely (see Figure 2). Similarly, in a public goods game,
rational compassion promoted prosocial contributions to a public good but emotional empathy
did not (Jordan et al., 2016). Moreover, emotional empathy and the socio-psychological
mechanisms based on intuitive judgments are biased in ways that interfere with doing the
greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people (Bloom, 2017; Caviola et al. 2021;
Lewis & Small, 2019). Consistent with evolutionary perspectives (see Table 2), many of those
23
motivational and cognitive biases appear to serve the self-interest of the individual and his or her
kin or in-group (DeSteno, 2015; Jaeger & van Vugt, 2022). The resulting biases can cause
donors to collectively miss out on opportunities to save millions of lives because the people who
can benefit the most from donations are almost always distant others in poor third-world
countries (see Section 1.3). Moreover, these biases in favor of helping the ingroup also
perpetuate unfairness and social discrimination (Dovidio et al., 2017; Greenwald & Pettigrew,
2014).
This section’s argument that some mechanisms of well-doing could be much more beneficial
than others has crucial implications for future research on understanding and promoting effective
well-doing.
4. Implications for understanding and promoting
effective well-doing
Taken together the plurality of psychological mechanisms of well-doing (Section 2) and the
initial findings that some of those mechanisms lead to much more effective well-doing than
others (Section 3) suggest new psychological interventions that specifically target the
mechanisms of effective well-doing could be much more impactful than existing interventions.
This makes identifying the triggers and mechanisms of highly effective forms of well-doing
(Section 4.1) and developing interventions to promote them an important priority for future
research (Section 4.2). Both of these endeavors could be greatly facilitated by developing
measures of the quality and quantity of people’s well-doing (Section 4.3). We will now elaborate
on each of these three implications in turn.
4.1. Implications for investigating the mechanisms of well-doing
Well-doing can take many different forms, ranging from cheering up a loved one to dedicating
one’s scientific career to cancer research (see Table 3). These different kinds of behaviors may
have vastly different consequences and causal mechanisms. To identify which behaviors future
interventions should seek to promote and which causal mechanisms they should target, we first
need to better understand which forms of well-doing are most beneficial to the long-term
flourishing of humanity, which psychological mechanisms are most likely to give rise to them,
24
and under which circumstances people are most likely to rely on those mechanisms. These
questions would be easier to address if we had a comprehensive, multi-dimensional taxonomy of
different forms of well-doing. Progress towards such a taxonomy has been made in research on
prosocial behavior (Carlo & Randall, 2002; Dunfield, 2014) but other forms of well-doing have
yet to be incorporated. A tentative taxonomy of different forms of well-doing would allow us to
systematically investigate how different forms of well-doing are related to different causes,
mechanisms, and consequences. Given that some forms of well-doing are more than a thousand
times more effective than others (MacAskill, 2015), it is important to understand which
behaviors have the greatest positive impact on the long-term flourishing of humanity and which
causal mechanisms are most likely to produce them. One approach to identifying such behaviors
and their psychological mechanisms could be to apply the methods that scholars of moral
personality (see Table 2) have developed to study moral exemplars (Fleeson et al., 2021; Lawn
et al., 2022) to identify which personal and situational characteristics distinguish paragons of
effective altruism (MacAskill, 2015; Todd, 2016) from otherwise similar people whose
contributions have been more ordinary. Given that some of the greatest contributions to the
flourishing of humanity were the fruits of decades of systematic effort (MacAskill, 2015; Todd,
2016), the proactive pursuit of altruistic long-term goals might be an important mechanism of
highly effective well-doing (see Section 2.3 and Section 1.2.2-1.2.3). So far, there has been little
research on the mechanisms and consequences of the pursuit of altruistic long-term goals (e.g.,
Niemiec et al., 2009; Sheldon et al., 2010). Much more research remains to be done, and
personal projects analysis could be one promising methodology to conduct it (Little & Gee,
2007; McGregor & Little, 1998).
4.2. Implications for investigating different intervention strategies
Because some forms of effective well-doing are governed by different psychological
mechanisms than conventional well-doing, promoting it might require different kinds of
psychological interventions. Many interventions for promoting socially beneficial decisions can
be divided into seven categories that target different psychological mechanisms: nudging,
boosting, goal-setting, value change, intentional personality change, (character) education, and
cognitive augmentation (see Table 4). The most popular intervention, nudging, usually targets
intuitive reactive mechanisms (see Section 2.2). It can be applied to promote effective charitable
25
giving in a highly cost-effective manner (Saeri et al., 2022). However, it is less well-suited to
promote effective forms of proactive well-doing that require yet-unknown strategic intellectual
activities over an extended period of time (e.g., inventing climate-friendly technologies).
Promoting such forms of effective well-doing might require other interventions that foster the
proactive mechanisms of well-doing (see Section 2.3), such as goal-setting and value change (see
Section 1.2.2), character education, or intentional personality change. Such interventions may
have sustained effects that increase (effective) well-doing over extended periods of time and
across contexts. However, the mechanisms through which the underlying psychological changes
are achieved are not well understood yet. We therefore see understanding how the development
of purpose (see Section 1.2.3), value change (see Section 1.2.2), moral learning (see Table 2),
wisdom (Grossman, 2017; Grossmann et al., 2021), and cognitive growth can be fostered as
particularly important goals for future research (see Section 3). Such research could, for instance,
flesh out concrete, teachable, mental strategies that people can follow to think and act virtuously
(cf. Kristjánsson, 2014), investigate the learning mechanisms underlying character change, and
identify how obstacles to positive character change can be overcome (cf. Thielmann & de Vries,
2021). Another important direction for future research is identifying which type of intervention is
most effective for promoting which type of well-doing for which type of person in which type of
situation. Moreover, future research should also investigate how the principles of boosting and
cognitive augmentation (see Table 4) can be applied to help people to pursue socially beneficial
goals and values more effectively.
definition
example intervention(s) relevant to
promoting effective well-doing
using psychological insights to
redesign the situations in which
people make decisions in such a way
that people are more likely to make
socially beneficial choices without
restricting their freedom of choice
(Thaler & Sunstein, 2021)
- exploiting people’s bias towards helping
identifiable victims by soliciting
charitable donations with images and
descriptions of a specific person in need
(Small & Loewenstein, 2003)
educational or informational
interventions that increase people’s
decision-making competency
(Hertwig & Grüne-Yanoff, 2017).
- providing accurate information about the
effectiveness of different charities
- teaching people smart heuristics for
choosing a career with high a positive
26
social impact (Todd, 2016)
helping people set one or more high-
quality goals
- helping people select a prosocial life
purpose (e.g., Baumsteiger, 2019; Bronk
et al., 2019)
- helping people translate their altruistic
values into actionable goals (e.g., Prentice
et al., 2022)
influencing how much priority people
place on different values (Bardi &
Goodwin, 2011)
- presenting values that are linked to well-
doing as socially desirable (Maio et al.,
2009)
psychological interventions for
motivating and supporting a person’s
deliberate efforts to change one or
more personality traits (e.g.,
conscientiousness)
(Allemand & Flückiger, 2022)
- deliberately thinking and acting like a
conscientious person to make
conscientiousness a habit (Roberts, et al.,
2017; Stieger et al., 2021)
- cultivating compassion through loving
kindness meditation (Condon et al., 2013;
Jazaieri et al., 2013; Leiberg et al., 2011;
Weng et al., 2013)
classroom instruction and other
educational activities designed to help
people cultivate character virtues,
such as fairness, honesty, generosity,
and courage (Kristjánsson, 2014,
2015).
- guiding students to repeatedly think and
act prosocially to help them cultivate
prosocial (mental) habits.
- telling students about a person whose
character and behavior exemplifies certain
moral values. (Lamb et al., 2021)
providing people with tools that can
perform some of the information-
processing operations of good
decision-making for them (e.g.,
decision support systems)
- information systems for solving societal
problems (Slattery et al., 2021)
- apps that help people set or pursue
(socially beneficial) goals (Lieder et al.,
2019; Wirzberger, et al., 2020, 2022).
Table 4. Approaches to improving human decision-making.
4.3. We need measures of (effective) well-doing
To identify which forms of well-doing are most beneficial and to evaluate potential
interventions, we need methods for measuring the quantity, quality, and impact of people’s well-
doing. Although some measures of altruism (e.g., Rushton et al., 1981), prosocial behavior
(Baumsteiger & Siegel, 2019), and moral behavior (Luke et al., 2021) already exist, they often
only cover a small subset of the many forms of well-doing, do not assess the quality of well-
doing, and do not attempt to quantify the behaviors’ positive social impact. This makes
developing measures of the quality, quantity, and positive social impact of well-doing an
27
important goal for future research. A potential starting point for measuring the quantity and
quality of well-doing is the moral character questionnaire (Furr et al., 2022), which measures
moral traits, like compassion and fairness, that were shown to predict moral behavior in everyday
life (Prentice et al., 2020). To quantify the positive social impact of people’s behaviors, we could
measure the impact of their behavior on the well-being of the people who are affected by it.
5. Summary and conclusion
Research on well-doing can make the world a better place by revealing how well-doing can be
fostered. However, not all good deeds are created equal. Well-doing can arise from a plethora of
different mechanisms and take many forms. Some forms of well-doing are thousands, if not
millions, of times more beneficial for humanity than ordinary well-doing (see Table 3).
However, most people (almost) never engage in them, and prior research has neglected them.
Understanding effective well-doing and how people can cultivate the motivation and capacity to
engage in it would put us in a much better position to improve that (see Table 4). This makes
effective well-doing one of the most important, neglected topics of social and personality
psychology. Working on this topic is an outstanding opportunity to make the world better.
6. References
Agrawal, M., Peterson, J. C., & Griffiths, T. L. (2020). Scaling up psychology via scientific
regret minimization. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(16), 8825–
8835. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1915841117
Aknin, L. B., Van de Vondervoort, J. W., & Hamlin, J. K. (2018). Positive feelings reward and
promote prosocial behavior. Current Opinion in Psychology, 20, 55-59.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2017.08.017
Alexander, L., & Moore, M. (2020). Deontological Ethics. In Edward N. Zalta (ed.). The
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2021 Edition),
https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2021/entries/ethics-deontological/
28
Allemand, M., & Flückiger, C. (2022). Personality change through digital-coaching
interventions. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 31(1), 41–48.
https://doi.org/10.1177/09637214211067782
Almog-Bar, M., & Schmid, H. (2014). Advocacy activities of nonprofit human service
organizations: A critical review. Nonprofit and voluntary sector quarterly, 43(1), 11-35.
https://doi.org/10.1177/0899764013483212
Andreoni, J. (1989). Giving with impure altruism: Applications to charity and Ricardian
equivalence. Journal of Political Economy, 97(6), 1447–1458.
https://doi.org/10.1086/261662
Andreoni, J. (1990). Impure altruism and donations to public goods: A theory of warm-glow
giving. Economic Journal, 100(401), 464–477. https://doi.org/10.2307/2234133
Arieli, S., Grant, A. M., & Sagiv, L. (2014). Convincing yourself to care about others: An
intervention for enhancing benevolence values. Journal of Personality, 82(1), 15-24.
https://doi.org/10.1111/jopy.12029
Axelrod, R., & Hamilton, W. D. (1981). The evolution of cooperation. Science, 211(4489),
1390-1396. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.7466396
Bardi, A., & Goodwin, R. (2011). The dual route to value change: Individual processes and
cultural moderators. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 42(2), 271-287.
https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0022022110396916
Baron, J. & Greene, J. (1996). Determinants of insensitivity to quantity in valuation of public
goods: Contribution, warm glow, budget constraints, availability, and prominence. J.
Exp. Psychol. Appl. 2, 107–125. https://doi.org/10.1037/1076-898X.2.2.107
29
Bartlett, M. Y., & DeSteno, D. (2006). Gratitude and prosocial behavior: Helping when it costs
you. Psychological science, 17(4), 319-325. https://doi.org/10.1111%2Fj.1467-
9280.2006.01705.x
Batson, C. (2010). Empathy-induced altruistic motivation. In M. Mikulincer & P. R. Shaver
(Eds.). Prosocial motives, emotions, and behavior: The better angels of our nature (pp.
15–34). American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/12061-001
Batson, C. D., Ahmad, N., Lishner, D. A., Tsang, J., Snyder, C., & Lopez, S. (2002). Empathy
and altruism. In K. W. Brown & M. R. Leary (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of hypo-egoic
phenomena (pp. 161–174). Oxford University Press.
https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199328079.001.0001
Batson, C. D., Duncan, B. D., Ackerman, P., Buckley, T., & Birch, K. (1981). Is empathic
emotion a source of altruistic motivation? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
40(2), 290. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.40.2.290
Baumsteiger, R. (2019). What the world needs now: An intervention for promoting prosocial
behavior. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 41(4), 215–229.
https://doi.org/10.1080/01973533.2019.1639507
Baumsteiger, R., & Siegel, J. T. (2019). Measuring prosociality: The development of a prosocial
behavioral intentions scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 101(3), 305–314.
https://doi.org/10.1080/00223891.2017.1411918
Bekkers, R. (2007). Intergenerational transmission of volunteering. Acta Sociologica, 50(2), 99–
114. https://doi.org/10.1177/0001699307077653
30
Bekkers, R., & Wiepking, P. (2011). A literature review of empirical studies of philanthropy:
Eight mechanisms that drive charitable giving. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector
Quarterly, 40(5), 924–973. https://doi.org/10.1177/0899764010380927
Berman, J. Z., Barasch, A., Levine, E. E. & Small, D. A. (2018). Impediments to effective
altruism: the role of subjective preferences in charitable giving. Psychological Science
29, 834–844. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797617747648
Bloom, P. (2017). Against empathy: The case for rational compassion. Random House.
Bronk, K. C. (2013). Purpose in life: A critical component of optimal youth development.
Springer Science & Business Media. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-7491-9
Bronk, K. C., Baumsteiger, R., Mangan, S., Riches, B., Dubon, V., Benavides, C., & Bono, G.
(2019). Fostering purpose among young adults: Effective online interventions. Journal of
Character Education, 15(2), 21–38.
https://www.proquest.com/openview/d2c106e023049014b5f90eb745c7665e/
Bryant, W. K., Jeon-Slaughter, H., Kang, H., & Tax, A. (2003). Participation in philanthropic
activities: Donating money and time. Journal of Consumer Policy, 26(1), 43–73.
https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1022626529603
Burum, B., Nowak, M. A., & Hoffman, M. (2020). An evolutionary explanation for ineffective
altruism. Nature Human Behaviour, 4(12), 1245-1257. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-
020-00950-4
Buss, D. M. (1995). Evolutionary psychology: A new paradigm for psychological
science. Psychological Inquiry, 6(1), 1-30. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327965pli0601_1
31
Bustamante, L., Lieder, F., Musslick, S., Shenhav, A., & Cohen, J. (2021). Learning to
overexert cognitive control in a Stroop task. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral
Neuroscience, 21(3), 453-471. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13415-020-00845-x
Carlo, G., & Randall, B. A. (2002). The development of a measure of prosocial behaviors for
late adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 31(1), 31–44.
https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1014033032440
Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (2001). On the self-regulation of behavior. Cambridge
University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139174794
Cavanaugh, L. A., Bettman, J. R., & Luce, M. F. (2015). Feeling love and doing more for
distant others: Specific positive emotions differentially affect prosocial
consumption. Journal of Marketing Research, 52(5), 657-673.
https://doi.org/10.1509%2Fjmr.10.0219
Caviola, L., Schubert, S., & Greene, J. D. (2021). The psychology of (in) effective altruism.
Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 25(7), 596–607. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2021.03.015
Caviola, L., Schubert, S., & Nemirow, J. (2020a). The many obstacles to effective giving.
Judgment and Decision Making, 15(2), 159.
http://www.decisionsciencenews.com/sjdm/journal.sjdm.org/19/190810/jdm190810.html
Caviola, L., Schubert, S., Teperman, E., Moss, D., Greenberg, S., & Faber, N. (2020b). Donors
vastly underestimate differences in charities’ effectiveness. Judgment and Decision
Making, 15(4), 509-516. http://journal.sjdm.org/20/200504/jdm200504.pdf
Chen, Y., & Li, S. X. (2009). Group identity and social preferences. American Economic
Review, 99(1), 431-57. https://doi.org/10.1257/aer.99.1.431
Chenoweth, E., & Stephan, M. (2011). Why civil resistance works: The strategic logic of
nonviolent conflict. Columbia University Press.
32
Child, C. D., & Grønbjerg, K. A. (2007). Nonprofit advocacy organizations: Their characteristics
and activities. Social Science Quarterly, 88(1), 259-281. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-
6237.2007.00457.x
Cipriani, M., Giuliano, P., & Jeanne, O. (2013). Like mother like son? Experimental evidence
on the transmission of values from parents to children. Journal of Economic Behavior &
Organization, 90, 100–111. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jebo.2013.03.002
Cohen, T. R., & Morse, L. (2014). Moral character: What it is and what it does. Research in
Organizational Behavior, 31, 43-61. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.riob.2014.08.003
Cohen, T. R., Panter, A. T., Turan, N., Morse, L., & Kim, Y. (2014). Moral character in the
workplace. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 107(5), 943–963.
https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037245
Condon, P., Desbordes, G., Miller, W. B., & DeSteno, D. (2013). Meditation increases
compassionate responses to suffering. Psychological Science, 24(10), 2125–2127.
https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797613485603
Crumpler, H., & Grossman, P. J. (2008). An experimental test of warm glow giving. Journal of
Public Economics, 92(5), 1011–1021. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpubeco.2007.12.014
Cushman, F. (2013). Action, outcome, and value: A dual-system framework for morality.
Personality and Social Psychology Review, 17(3), 273–292.
https://doi.org/10.1177/1088868313495594
Cushman, F., Kumar, V., & Railton, P. (2017). Moral learning: Psychological and philosophical
perspectives. Cognition, 167, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2017.06.008
33
Cushman, F., & Morris, A. (2015). Habitual control of goal selection in humans. Proceedings of
the National Academy of Sciences, 112(45), 13817–13822.
https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1506367112
Damon, W. (2009). The path to purpose: How young people find their calling in life. Free Press.
https://books.google.com/books?id=QT4KuW2bOzkC&dq
Damon, W., & Malin, H. (2020). The development of purpose: An international perspective. In
L. A. Jenesen (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of moral development: An interdisciplinary
perspective. Oxford University Press.
https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190676049.013.8
DeSteno, D. (2015). Compassion and altruism: How our minds determine who is worthy of
help. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 3, 80–83.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cobeha.2015.02.002
Dittmar, H., Bond, R., Hurst, M., & Kasser, T. (2014). The relationship between materialism
and personal well-being: A meta-analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
107(5), 879. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037409
Dolan, R. J., & Dayan, P. (2013). Goals and habits in the brain. Neuron, 80(2), 312–325.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2013.09.007
Dovidio, J. F. (1984). Helping behavior and altruism: An empirical and conceptual
overview. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 17, 361-427.
https://doi.org/10.1016/S0065-2601(08)60123-9
Dovidio, J. F., Gaertner, S. L., & Abad-Merino, S. (2017). Helping behaviour and subtle
discrimination. In E. van Leeuwen & H. Zagefka (Eds.), Intergroup helping (pp. 3–22).
Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-53026-0_1
34
Driver, J. (2014). The history of utilitarianism. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), Stanford encyclopedia of
philosophy (Winter 2014).
https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2014/entries/utilitarianism-history/
Duckworth, A. L., Gendler, T. S., & Gross, J. J. (2016). Situational strategies for self-control.
Perspectives on Psychological Science, 11(1), 35–55.
https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691615623247
Dunfield, K. A. (2014). A construct divided: Prosocial behavior as helping, sharing, and
comforting subtypes. Frontiers in Psychology, 5.
https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00958
Dungan, J., Waytz, A., & Young, L. (2015). The psychology of whistleblowing. Current
Opinion in Psychology, 6, 129-133. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2015.07.005
Egas, M., & Riedl, A. (2008). The economics of altruistic punishment and the maintenance of
cooperation. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 275(1637), 871-
878. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2007.1558
Eisenberg, N. (1991). Values, sympathy, and individual differences: Toward a pluralism of
factors influencing altruism and empathy. Psychological Inquiry, 2(2), 128–131.
https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327965pli0202_5
Eisenberg, N. (2014). Altruistic emotion, cognition, and behavior (PLE: Emotion). Psychology
Press. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315746135
Eisenberg, N., Carlo, G., Murphy, B., & van Court, P. (1995). Prosocial development in late
adolescence: A longitudinal study. Child Development, 66(4), 1179–1197.
https://doi.org/10.2307/1131806
35
Eisenberg, N., Eggum-Wilkens, N. D., & Spinrad, T. L. (2015a). The development of prosocial
behavior. In D. A. Schroeder & T. L. Spinrad (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of prosocial
behavior. Oxford University Press.
https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195399813.013.008
Eisenberg, N., Spinrad, T. L., & Knafo-Noam, A. (2015b). Prosocial development. In R. M.
Lerner (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology and developmental science (Vol. 3, pp. 1–
47). John Wiley & Sons. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118963418.childpsy315
Engelmann, N., & Waldmann, M. R. (2022). How to weigh lives. A computational model of
moral judgment in multiple-outcome structures. Cognition, 218, 104910.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2021.104910
Evans, J. S. B. (2010). Intuition and reasoning: A dual-process perspective. Psychological
Inquiry, 21(4), 313-326. https://doi.org/10.1080/1047840X.2010.521057
Fechner, G. T. (1860). Elemente der Psychophysik. Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel.
Fehr, E., & Fischbacher, U. (2003). The nature of human altruism. Nature, 425(6960), 785-791.
https://doi.org/10.1038/nature02043
Fehr, E., & Fischbacher, U. (2004). Social norms and human cooperation. Trends in Cognitive
Sciences, 8(4), 185-190. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2004.02.007.
Fehr, E., & Gächter, S. (2002). Altruistic punishment in humans. Nature, 415(6868), 137-140.
https://doi.org/10.1038/415137a
Fetherstonhaugh, D., Slovic, P., Johnson, S., & Friedrich, J. (1997). Insensitivity to the value of
human life: A study of psychophysical numbing. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 14(3),
283–300. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1007744326393
36
Fleeson, W., Miller, C., Furr, R. M., Knobel, A., & Jayawickreme, E. (2021). Moral, extreme,
and positive: What are the key issues for the study of the morally exceptional? In A. W.
Kruglanski, C. Kopetz, and E. Szumowska (Eds). The psychology of extremism: a
motivational perspective. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003030898
Fowers, B. J., Carroll, J. S., Leonhardt, N. D., & Cokelet, B. (2021). The emerging science of
virtue. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 16(1), 118-147.
Frankl, V. E. (1985). Man’s search for meaning (1st ed.). Pocket Books.
https://openlibrary.org/books/OL19392027M/Man's_Search_for_Meaning
Furr, R. M., Prentice, M., Parham, A. H., & Jayawickreme, E. (2022). Development and
validation of the Moral Character Questionnaire. Journal of Research in Personality, 98,
104228. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2022.104228
Gagné, M. (2003). The role of autonomy support and autonomy orientation in prosocial
behavior engagement. Motivation and Emotion, 27(3), 199–223.
https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1025007614869
Gainsburg, I., Pauer, S., Nawal, A., Aloyo, E., Mourrat, J.-C., & Cristia, A. (in press). How
effective altruism can help psychologists maximize their impact. Perspectives on
Psychological Science. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/8dw59
Giammarco, E. A. (2016). The measurement of individual differences in morality. Personality
and Individual Differences, 88, 26–34. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2015.08.039
Gordon, J., Harvey, C., Shaw, E. & Maclean, M. (2015). Entrepreneurial philanthropy. In T.
Jung, S.D. Phillips and J. Harrow (Eds), The Routledge Companion to Philanthropy (pp.
334-347). Routledge.
37
Greaves, H., & Pummer, T. (Eds.). (2019). Effective altruism: Philosophical issues. Oxford
University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198841364.001.0001
Greaves, H., MacAskill, W., & Thornley, E. (2021). The Moral Case for Long-Term Thinking.
In N. Cargill & T. M. John (Eds.), The Long View: Essays on Policy, Philanthropy, and
the Long-Term Future (pp. 19-28). FIRST. https://philarchive.org/archive/GRETMC-3
Greene, J. D. (2015). The rise of moral cognition. Cognition, 135, 39–42.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2014.11.018
Greene, J. D., Morelli, S. A., Lowenberg, K., Nystrom, L. E., & Cohen, J. D. (2008). Cognitive
load selectively interferes with utilitarian moral judgment. Cognition, 107(3), 1144–1154.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2007.11.004
Greenwald, A. G., & Pettigrew, T. F. (2014). With malice toward none and charity for some:
Ingroup favoritism enables discrimination. American Psychologist, 69(7), 669–684.
https://doi.org/10.1037/a0036056
Grossmann, I. (2017). Wisdom and how to cultivate it: Review of emerging evidence for a
constructivist model of wise thinking. European Psychologist, 22(4), 233–246.
https://doi.org/10.1027/1016-9040/a000302
Grossmann, I., Dorfman, A., Oakes, H., Santos, H. C., Vohs, K. D., & Scholer, A. A. (2021).
Training for wisdom: The distanced-self-reflection diary method. Psychological
Science, 32(3), 381-394. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797620969170
Grouzet, F. M., Kasser, T., Ahuvia, A., Dols, J. M. F., Kim, Y., Lau, S., Ryan, R. M., Saunders,
S., Schmuck, P., & Sheldon, K. M. (2005). The structure of goal contents across 15
cultures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89(5), 800.
https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.89.5.800
38
Guo, C., & Saxton, G. D. (2014). Tweeting social change: How social media are changing
nonprofit advocacy. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 43(1), 57-79.
https://doi.org/10.1177/0899764012471585
Haidt, J. (2001). The emotional dog and its rational tail: A social intuitionist approach to moral
judgment. Psychological Review, 108(4), 814. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-
295X.108.4.814
Haidt, J. (2003a). Elevation and the positive psychology of morality. In C. L. M. Keyes & J.
Haidt (Eds.). Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well-Lived (pp. 275–289).
American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/10594-012
Haidt, J. (2003b). The moral emotions. In R. J. Davidson, K. R. Scherer, & H. H. Goldsmith
(Eds.), Handbook of affective sciences (pp. 852–870). Oxford University Press.
He, R., Jain, Y. R., & Lieder, F. (2021a). Measuring and modelling how people learn how to
plan and how people adapt their planning strategies the to structure of the environment.
In International conference on cognitive modeling. Retrieved from
https://mathpsych.org/presentation/604/document.
He, R., Jain, Y. R., & Lieder, F. (2021b, December). Have I done enough planning or should I
plan more? NeurIPS Workshop on Metacognition in the Age of AI.
https://doi.org/10.48550/arXiv.2201.00764
Hertwig, R., & Grüne-Yanoff, T. (2017). Nudging and boosting: Steering or empowering good
decisions. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12(6), 973–986.
https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691617702496
Hope, N. H., Milyavskaya, M., Holding, A. C., & Koestner, R. (2014). Self-growth in the
college years: Increased importance of intrinsic values predicts resolution of identity and
39
intimacy stages. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 5(6), 705–712.
https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550613516875
Huebner, B., Dwyer, S., & Hauser, M. (2009). The role of emotion in moral psychology. Trends
in Cognitive Sciences, 13(1), 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2008.09.006
Hurst, M., Dittmar, H., Bond, R., & Kasser, T. (2013). The relationship between materialistic
values and environmental attitudes and behaviors: A meta-analysis. Journal of
Environmental Psychology, 36, 257–269. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2013.09.003
Hursthouse, R., & Pettigrove, G. (2018). Virtue ethics. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), Stanford
encyclopedia of philosophy (Winter 2018).
https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2018/entries/ethics-virtue/
Jaeger, B., & van Vugt, M. (2022). Psychological barriers to effective altruism: An evolutionary
perspective. Current Opinion in Psychology, 44, 130–134.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2021.09.008
Jähnichen, S., Weber, F., Prentice, M., & Lieder, F. (2022, September 5-7). Does deliberate
prospection help students set better goals? [Poster presentation] KogWis 2022
“Understanding Minds”, Freiburg, Germany.
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/361524854_Does_deliberate_prospection_help
_students_set_better_goals
Jazaieri, H., Jinpa, G. T., McGonigal, K., Rosenberg, E. L., Finkelstein, J., Simon-Thomas, E.,
Cullen, M., Doty, J. R., Gross, J. J., & Goldin, P. R. (2013). Enhancing compassion: A
randomized controlled trial of a compassion cultivation training program. Journal of
Happiness Studies, 14(4), 1113–1126. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-012-9373-z
40
Jin, J., & Rounds, J. (2012). Stability and change in work values: A meta-analysis of
longitudinal studies. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 80(2), 326–339.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2011.10.007
Jordan, M. R., Amir, D., & Bloom, P. (2016). Are empathy and concern psychologically
distinct? Emotion, 16(8), 1107–1116. https://doi.org/10.1037/emo0000228
Kahneman, D., Ritov, I., & Schkade, D. (1999). Economic preferences or attitude expressions?
An analysis of dollar responses to public issues. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 19, pp.
203–235. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1007835629236
Kahneman, D., & A. Tversky. (1979). Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision Under Risk.
Econometrica, 4(2)7, 263-291. https://doi.org/10.2307/1914185
Kasser, T. (2016). Materialistic values and goals. Annual Review of Psychology, 67(1), 489–
514. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-122414-033344
Keltner, D., Kogan, A., Piff, P. K., & Saturn, S. R. (2014). The Sociocultural Appraisals,
Values, and Emotions (SAVE) framework of prosociality: Core processes from gene to
meme. Annual Review of Psychology, 65(1), 425–460. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-
psych-010213-115054
Kleiman-Weiner, M., Saxe, R., & Tenenbaum, J. B. (2017). Learning a commonsense moral
theory. Cognition, 167, 107–123. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2017.03.005
Kohlberg, L. (1969). Stage and sequence: The cognitive-developmental approach to
socialization. In D. A. Goslin (Ed.), Handbook of socialization theory and research (pp.
347–480). Rand McNelly. https://archive.org/details/handbookofsocial0000gosl
Kohlberg, L. (1983). Moral stages: A current formulation and a response to critics (Vol. 10).
Karger. https://searchworks.stanford.edu/view/1069375
41
Kristjánsson, K. (2014). Phronesis and moral education: Treading beyond the truisms. Theory
and Research in Education, 12(2), 151–171. https://doi.org/10.1177/1477878514530244
Kristjánsson, K. (2015). Aristotelian character education. Routledge.
Kurzban, R., Burton-Chellew, M. N., & West, S. A. (2015). The evolution of altruism in
humans. Annual Review of Psychology, 66, 575-599. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-
psych-010814-015355
Lamb, M., Brant, J., & Brooks, E. (2021). How Is Virtue Cultivated? Seven Strategies for
Postgraduate Character Development. Journal of Character Education, 17(1), 81-108.
https://www.infoagepub.com/products/journal-of-character-education-vol-17-1
Landis, S. K., Sherman, M. F., Piedmont, R. L., Kirkhart, M. W., Rapp, E. M., & Bike, D. H.
(2009). The relation between elevation and self-reported prosocial behavior: Incremental
validity over the five-factor model of personality. The Journal of Positive
Psychology, 4(1), 71-84. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760802399208
Lawn, E. C. R., Smillie, L. D., Pacheco, L. B., & Laham, S. M. (2022). From ordinary to
extraordinary: A roadmap for studying the psychology of moral exceptionality. Current
Opinion in Psychology, 43, 329–334. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2021.08.002
Leiberg, S., Klimecki, O., & Singer, T. (2011). Short-term compassion training increases
prosocial behavior in a newly developed prosocial game. PLoS ONE, 6(3), e17798.
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0017798
Levine, S., Cushman, F., Rahwan, I., & Tenenbaum, J. (2021). Engineering and reverse-
engineering morality. In Fitch, T., Lamm, C., Leder, H., & Teßmar-Raible, K.
(Eds). Proceedings of the 43th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 9-
10).
42
Levine, S., Kleiman-Weiner, M., Schulz, L., Tenenbaum, J., & Cushman, F. (2020). The logic of
universalization guides moral judgment. Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences, 117(42), 26158-26169. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2014505117
Lewis, J., & Small, D. (2019). Ineffective altruism: Giving less when donations do more good
(SSRN Scholarly Paper ID 3399121). Social Science Research Network.
https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3399121
Lieder, F., & Griffiths, T. L. (2020). Resource-rational analysis: Understanding human cognition
as the optimal use of limited computational resources. Behavioral and Brain
Sciences, 43. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X1900061X
Lieder, F., Chen, O. X., Krueger, P. M., & Griffiths, T. L. (2019). Cognitive prostheses for goal
achievement. Nature Human Behaviour, 3(10), 1096–1106.
https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-019-0672-9
Lieder, F., & Iwama, G. (2021). Toward a formal theory of proactivity. Cognitive, Affective, &
Behavioral Neuroscience, 21(3), 490-508. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13415-021-00884-y
Lieder, F., & Prentice, M. (in press). Life improvement science. In Maggino, F. (Ed.).
Encyclopedia of quality of life and well-being research. Springer.
https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.10679.44960
Lieder, F., Shenhav, A., Musslick, S., & Griffiths, T. L. (2018). Rational metareasoning and the
plasticity of cognitive control. PLoS computational biology, 14(4), e1006043.
Little, B. R. (2014). Well-doing: Personal projects and the quality of lives. Theory and Research
in Education, 12(3), 329-346. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1477878514545847
43
Little, B. R. (2016). Well-doing: Personal projects and the social ecology of flourishing. In J.
Vittersø (Ed.), Handbook of eudaimonic well-being (pp. 297–305). Springer International
Publishing AG. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-42445-3_19
Little, B. R., & Gee, T. L. (2007). The methodology of personal projects analysis: Four modules
and a funnel. In B. R. Little, K. Salmela-Aro, & S. D. Phillips (Eds.), Personal project
pursuit: Goals, action, and human flourishing (pp. 51–94). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Publishers. https://books.google.com/books?id=qW8DnmDBnOQC
Little, B. R., Salmela-Aro, K., & Phillips, S. D. (2017). Personal project pursuit: Goals, action,
and human flourishing. Psychology Press.
Luke, D. M., Prentice, M., & Fleeson, W. (2021). Chapter 46—Dynamic processes underlying
individual differences in moral behavior. In J. F. Rauthmann (Ed.), The handbook of
personality dynamics and processes (pp. 1183–1207). Academic Press.
https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-813995-0.00046-7
MacAskill, W. (2015). Doing good better: Effective altruism and a radical new way to make a
difference. Guardian Faber Publishing.
https://books.google.com.my/books?id=TxFACgAAQBAJ&dq
MacAskill, W. (2022). What We Owe the Future. Hachette UK.
Maio, G. R., Pakizeh, A., Cheung, W.-Y., & Rees, K. J. (2009). Changing, priming, and acting
on values: Effects via motivational relations in a circular model. Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology, 97(4), 699–715. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0016420
Malin, H., Ballard, P. J., & Damon, W. (2015). Civic purpose: An integrated construct for
understanding civic development in adolescence. Human Development, 58(2), 103–130.
https://doi.org/10.1159/000381655
44
Markowitz, H. (1952). The utility of wealth. Journal of political Economy, 60(2), 151-158.
https://doi.org/10.1086/257177
Martela, F., & Sheldon, K. M. (2019). Clarifying the concept of well-being: Psychological need
satisfaction as the common core connecting eudaimonic and subjective well-being.
Review of General Psychology, 23(4), 458–474.
https://doi.org/10.1177/1089268019880886
McAdams, D. P., & Logan, R. L. (2004). What is generativity? In E. de St. Aubin, D. P.
McAdams, & T.-C. Kim (Eds.), The generative society: Caring for future
generations (pp. 15–31). American Psychological Association.
https://doi.org/10.1037/10622-002
McGregor, I., & Little, B. R. (1998). Personal projects, happiness, and meaning: On doing well
and being yourself. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(2), 494–512.
https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.74.2.494
Mesmer-Magnus, J. R., & Viswesvaran, C. (2005). Whistleblowing in organizations: An
examination of correlates of whistleblowing intentions, actions, and retaliation. Journal
of business ethics, 62(3), 277-297. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-005-0849-1
Messerli, P., Murniningtyas, E., Eloundou-Enyegue, P., Foli, E. G., Furman, E., Glassman, A.,
Hernández Licona, G., Kim, E. M., Lutz, W., & Moatti, J.-P. (2019). Global sustainable
development report 2019: The future is now–science for achieving sustainable
development. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
https://sdgs.un.org/sites/default/files/2020-07/24797GSDR_report_2019.pdf
Miller, K. J., Shenhav, A., & Ludvig, E. A. (2019). Habits without values. Psychological
review, 126(2), 292. https://doi.org/10.1037/rev0000120
45
Milyavskaya, M., & Werner, K. M. (2018). Goal pursuit: Current state of affairs and directions
for future research. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne, 59(2), 163–175.
https://doi.org/10.1037/cap0000147
Milyavskaya, M., & Werner, K. M. (2021). An integrative model of goal pursuit [Manuscript
under review]. OSF Preprint. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/qydpv
Moran, S., Bundick, M. J., Malin, H., & Reilly, T. S. (2013). How supportive of their specific
purposes do youth believe their family and friends are? Journal of Adolescent Research,
28(3), 348–377. https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558412457816
Morisano, D., Hirsh, J. B., Peterson, J. B., Pihl, R. O., & Shore, B. M. (2010). Setting,
elaborating, and reflecting on personal goals improves academic performance. Journal of
applied psychology, 95(2), 255. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0018478
Niemiec, C. P., Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2009). The path taken: Consequences of attaining
intrinsic and extrinsic aspirations in post-college life. Journal of Research in Personality,
43(3), 291–306. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2008.09.001
Niv, Y. (2009). Reinforcement learning in the brain. Journal of Mathematical Psychology,
53(3), 139–154. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmp.2008.12.005
Nowak, M. A. (2006). Five rules for the evolution of cooperation. Science, 314(5805), 1560-
1563. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1133755
Ord, T. (2019). The moral imperative toward cost-effectiveness in global health. In H. Greaves
& T. Pummer (Eds.), Effective altruism: Philosophical issues (pp. 29–36). Oxford
University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198841364.003.0002
Ord, T. (2020). The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity. Bloomsbury
Publishing.
46
Parfit, D. (2011). On what matters. Oxford University Press.
Peetz, J., & Milyavskaya, M. (2021). A self-determination theory approach to predicting daily
prosocial behavior. Motivation and Emotion, 45(5), 617–630.
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-021-09902-5
Peredo, A. M., & McLean, M. (2006). Social entrepreneurship: A critical review of the
concept. Journal of World Business, 41(1), 56-65.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jwb.2005.10.007
Pfattheicher, S., Nielsen, Y. A., & Thielmann, I. (2022). Prosocial behavior and altruism: A
review of concepts and definitions. Current Opinion in Psychology, 44, 124–129.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2021.08.021
Phillips, J., Morris, A., & Cushman, F. (2019). How we know what not to think. Trends in
cognitive sciences, 23(12), 1026-1040. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2019.09.007
Pinker, S. (2011). The better angels of our nature: Why violence has declined. Penguin Books.
Prentice, M., Gonzalez Cruz, H., & Lieder, F. (2022, January). Evaluating Life Reflection
Techniques to Help People Select Virtuous Life Goals. Integrating Research on
Character and Virtues: 10 Years of Impact.
Prentice, M., Jayawickreme, E., & Fleeson, W. (2020). An experience sampling study of the
momentary dynamics of moral, autonomous, competent, and related need satisfactions,
moral enactments, and psychological thriving. Motivation and Emotion, 44(2), 244–256.
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-020-09829-3
Preston, J. L., Ritter, R. S., & Ivan Hernandez, J. (2010). Principles of religious prosociality: A
review and reformulation. Social and personality psychology Compass, 4(8), 574-590.
https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1751-9004.2010.00286.x
47
Prystawski, B., Mohnert, F., Tošić, M., & Lieder, F. (2021). Resource-rational models of human
goal pursuit. Topics in Cognitive Science. https://doi.org/10.1111/tops.12562
Reker, G. T., Peacock, E. J., & Wong, P. T. (1987). Meaning and purpose in life and well-being:
A life-span perspective. Journal of Gerontology, 42(1), 44-49.
https://doi.org/10.1093/geronj/42.1.44
Reynante, B., Wilcox, J.E., Stephenson, O. L., Lieder, F., Thielmann, I., & Lacopo, C. (2022).
"Cultivating Changemakers: A Review of Metachangemaking." [Manuscript submitted
for publication].
Richardson, H. S. (2018). Moral reasoning. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of
philosophy (Fall 2018). Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.
https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2018/entries/reasoning-moral/
Roberts, B. W., Hill, P. L., & Davis, J. P. (2017). How to change conscientiousness: The
sociogenomic trait intervention model. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and
Treatment, 8(3), 199–205. https://doi.org/10.1037/per0000242
Rohan, M. J., & Zanna, M. P. (1996). Value transmission in families. In C. Seligman, J. M.
Olson, & M. P. Zanna (Eds.). The psychology of values: The Ontario symposium (Vol. 8,
pp. 253–276). Psychology Press. https://books.google.com/books?id=q5CUHmtlTz0C
Roser, M. (2014). Human Development Index (HDI). Our World in Data.
https://ourworldindata.org/human-development-index
Roser, M., Hasell, J., Herre, B., & Macdonald, B. (2016). War and peace. Our World in Data.
https://ourworldindata.org/war-and-peace
48
Roser, M., & Ortiz-Ospina, E. (2013). Global extreme poverty. Our World in Data.
https://ourworldindata.org/extreme-poverty
Rushton, J. P., Chrisjohn, R. D., & Fekken, G. C. (1981). The altruistic personality and the self-
report altruism scale. Personality and Individual Differences, 2(4), 293–302.
https://doi.org/10.1016/0191-8869(81)90084-2
Ryan, R. M., Huta, V., & Deci, E. L. (2008). Living well: A self-determination theory
perspective on eudaimonia. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9(1), 139–170.
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-006-9023-4
Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. H. (2008). Know thyself and become what you are: A eudaimonic
approach to psychological well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9(1), 13-39.
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-006-9019-0
Saeri, A. K., Slattery, P., Lee, J., Houlden, T., Farr, N., Gelber, R. L., ... & Zorker, M. (2022).
What works to increase charitable donations? A meta-review with meta-meta-
analysis. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations,
1-17. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11266-022-00499-y
Schnall, S., Roper, J., & Fessler, D. M. (2010). Elevation leads to altruistic behavior.
Psychological science, 21(3), 315-320. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797609359882
Schultz, P. W., & Kaiser, F. G. (2012). Promoting pro-environmental behavior. In S. D. Clayton
(Ed.), The Oxford handbook of environmental and conservation psychology. Oxford
University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199733026.013.0029
Schuster, C., Pinkowski, L., & Fischer, D. (2019). Intra-individual value change in adulthood.
Zeitschrift Für Psychologie, 227(1), 42–52. https://doi.org/10.1027/2151-2604/a000355
49
Schwartz, S. H. (1992). Universals in the content and structure of values: Theoretical advances
and empirical tests in 20 countries. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social
psychology (Vol. 25, pp. 1–65). Academic Press. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0065-
2601(08)60281-6
Schwartz, S. H. (2012). An overview of the Schwartz theory of basic values. Online readings in
Psychology and Culture, 2(1), 2307-0919. https://doi.org/10.9707/2307-0919.1116
Sheldon, K. M. (2018). Understanding the good life: Eudaimonic living involves well-doing,
not well-being. J. P. Forgas and R. F. Baumeister (Eds.). The social psychology of living
well (Edition 1, pp. 116-136). Routledge
Sheldon, K. M., Abad, N., Ferguson, Y., Gunz, A., Houser-Marko, L., Nichols, C. P., &
Lyubomirsky, S. (2010). Persistent pursuit of need-satisfying goals leads to increased
happiness: A 6-month experimental longitudinal study. Motivation and Emotion, 34(1),
39–48. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-009-9153-1
Sheldon, K. M., Corcoran, M., & Prentice, M. (2019). Pursuing eudaimonic functioning versus
pursuing hedonic well-being: The first goal succeeds in its aim, whereas the second does
not. Journal of Happiness Studies, 20(3), 919–933. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-018-
9980-4
Sheldon, K. M., & Kasser, T. (1995). Coherence and congruence: Two aspects of personality
integration. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68(3), 531.
https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.68.3.531
Sheldon, K. M., Sheldon, M. S., & Osbaldiston, R. (2000). Prosocial values and group
assortation. Human Nature, 11(4), 387–404. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-000-1009-z
50
Shariff, A. F. (2015). Does religion increase moral behavior?. Current Opinion in Psychology, 6,
108-113. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2015.07.009
Shek, D. T., Ma, H. K., & Cheung, P. C. (1994). Meaning in life and adolescent antisocial and
prosocial behavior in a Chinese context. Psychologia: An International Journal of
Psychology in the Orient, 37(4), 211–218
Shier, M. L., & Handy, F. (2015). From advocacy to social innovation: A typology of social
change efforts by nonprofits. Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit
Organizations, 26(6), 2581-2603. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11266-014-9535-1
Simpson, B., & Willer, R. (2015). Beyond altruism: Sociological foundations of cooperation and
prosocial behavior. Annual Review of Sociology, 41(1), 43-63.
https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-soc-073014-112242
Slattery, P., Finnegan, P, & Vidgen, R. (2021). ProSocietal Information Systems (ProSIS): A
Formulation of a Grand Challenge for IS. OSF Preprint.
https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/Q58MH
Small, D. A., & Loewenstein, G. (2003). Helping a victim or helping the victim: Altruism and
identifiability. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 26(1), 5–16.
https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1022299422219
Stieger, M., Flückiger, C., Rüegger, D., Kowatsch, T., Roberts, B. W., & Allemand, M. (2021).
Changing personality traits with the help of a digital personality change intervention.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(8).
https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2017548118
Sun, J., & Goodwin, G. P. (2020). Do people want to be more moral? Psychological Science,
31(3), 243–257. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797619893078
51
Sutton, R. S., & Barto, A. G. (2018). Reinforcement learning: An introduction (2nd ed.). MIT
Press. https://books.google.com/books?id=uWV0DwAAQBAJ
Thaler, R. H., & Sunstein, C. R. (2021). Nudge: The final Edition. Yale University Press.
Thielmann, I., & de Vries, R. E. (2021). Who wants to change and how? On the trait-specificity
of personality change goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
https://doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000304
Thielmann, I., Spadaro, G., & Balliet, D. (2020). Personality and prosocial behavior: A
theoretical framework and meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 146(1), 30-90.
https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/bul0000217
Thomson, A. L., & Siegel, J. T. (2013). A moral act, elevation, and prosocial behavior:
Moderators of morality. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8(1), 50-64.
https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2012.754926
Todd, B. (2016). 80,000 Hours: Find a fulfilling career that does good. Centre for Effective
Altruism. https://80000hours.org/book/
Turiel, E. (2010). The development of morality. In The handbook of life-span development.
John Wiley & Sons. https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470880166.hlsd001016
United Nations. (2015). Transforming our world: The 2030 agenda for sustainable
development. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
Vaish, A., Carpenter, M., & Tomasello, M. (2009). Sympathy through affective perspective
taking and its relation to prosocial behavior in toddlers. Developmental Psychology,
45(2), 534. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0014322
52
Västfjäll, D., Slovic, P., & Mayorga, M. (2015). Pseudoinefficacy: Negative feelings from
children who cannot be helped reduce warm glow for children who can be helped.
Frontiers in Psychology, 6. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00616
Wallach, W., Franklin, S., & Allen, C. (2010). A conceptual and computational model of moral
decision making in human and artificial agents. Topics in Cognitive Science, 2(3), 454-
485. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1756-8765.2010.01095.x
Weinstein, N., & Ryan, R. M. (2010). When helping helps: Autonomous motivation for
prosocial behavior and its influence on well-being for the helper and recipient. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 98(2), 222–244. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0016984
Weng, H. Y., Fox, A. S., Shackman, A. J., Stodola, D. E., Caldwell, J. Z. K., Olson, M. C.,
Rogers, G. M., & Davidson, R. J. (2013). Compassion training alters altruism and neural
responses to suffering. Psychological Science, 24(7), 1171–1180.
https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797612469537
Wentzel, K. R., Filisetti, L., & Looney, L. (2007). Adolescent prosocial behavior: The role of
self-processes and contextual cues. Child Development, 78(3), 895–910.
https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2007.01039.x
Wilson, J. (2000). Volunteering. Annual Review of Sociology, 26(1), 215-240.
https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.soc.26.1.215
Wirzberger, M., Lado, A., Eckerstorfer, L., Oreshnikov, I., Passy, J.-C., Stock, A., Shenhav, A.,
& Lieder, F. (2020, July). How to navigate everyday distractions: Leveraging optimal
feedback to train attention control. In S. Denison, M. Mack, Y. Zu, & B. C. Armstrong
(Eds.), Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society.
https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.36421.68321
53
Wirzberger, M., Lado, A., Prentice, M., Oreshnikov, I., Passy, J.-C., Stock, A., & Lieder, F.
(2022). Can we improve self-regulation during computer-based work with optimal
feedback?. [Manuscript submitted for publication] https://osf.io/8f6hx/
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Human cognition is fundamentally goal-directed (Carver & Scheier, 2001), and there are still many open questions about the cognitive mechanisms of goal-setting and how they affect the quality of people’s goals (Kasser & Ryan, 1996). Here, we study in an exploratory way how goals set through deliberate reflection about the future (prospection) differ from the goals people set without guided prospection. We conducted an online experiment where students derived goals from imagining what they would like a close friend or relative to say about their accomplishments in the future. We aimed to answer two questions: 1) How does this goal-setting strategy affect the goal’s characteristics (e.g., importance and specificity), and which broad life aspirations the goal aims at (e.g., wealth, safety, or happiness)? 2) How do those effects depend on the time horizon of the imagined accomplishments? The second question is especially important because the impact of the time horizon of prospection has not been studied before. In the first phase of the experiment, all participants engaged in unstructured, baseline goal-setting. In the second phase of the experiment, all participants were guided to engage in deliberate prospection. Concretely, they imagined what they would like a close friend or relative to say about their accomplishments at one of three randomly assigned time points: the end of the current semester (N = 26), the end of their university studies (N = 26), or the end of their life (N = 24). Finally, they were asked to derive a goal from the resulting insights. Participants rated both goals on shortened and translated versions of the Goal Characteristics Questionnaire (Iwama et al., 2021) and the Aspiration Index (Kasser & Ryan, 1996; Grouzet, et al., 2005) immediately after setting each goal. Regarding our first question, we found that the goals students set through deliberate prospection were superior to the goals they set intuitively on several metrics (see Table 1) but less specific and less measurable. Participants rated post-prospection goals as being more useful to pursue (p<.001), better aligned with their identity (p<.01) and their values (p<.05), more strongly tied to aspirations to have exciting life experiences (p<.05), and less strongly tied to wealth (p<.05) and safety (p<.01) aspirations. Together, these findings are consistent with the theory that people’s attention has a positivity offset highlighting possible upsides when they think about psychologically-distant possibilities and a negativity bias highlighting possible dangers of more proximal goal pursuit (Caciappo & Bernston, 1999). Moreover, deliberate prospection shifted students’ priorities towards maintaining what is good (p<.05) and pursuing worthwhile activities rather than focusing on the outcome (p<.01). Regarding our second question about the time horizon of prospection, we found that reflecting on what they would like to have accomplished by the end of their life made students care less about financial success and more about contributing to their community than reflecting on shorter timescales (both p<.05). This finding indicates an increased focus on intrinsic values and a decreased focus on extrinsic values when reflecting on a longer time horizon. Our results also suggest that reflecting on what they would like to have accomplished by the end of their studies directs students more toward conformity-oriented goals than prospecting on other time periods (p<.05). This might be because conforming to academic norms and expectations is instrumental for getting a good job after graduation. Overall, our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that deriving goals through deliberate prospection helps people set goals that they believe will be rewarding to pursue, and that research has shown are conducive to well-being. In some cases, these benefits to goal-setting are particularly pronounced when reflecting on the end of one’s life. We will test several concrete hypotheses suggested by these results in a large, preregistered follow-up experiment. The aim is to characterize the benefits of deliberate prospection and to determine which time horizon is most beneficial for goal attainment and well-being.
Article
Full-text available
Many charities rely on donations to support their work addressing some of the world’s most pressing problems. We conducted a meta-review to determine what interventions work to increase charitable donations. We found 21 systematic reviews incorporating 1339 primary studies and over 2,139,938 participants. Our meta-meta-analysis estimated the average effect of an intervention on charitable donation size and incidence: r = 0.08 (95% CI [0.03, 0.12]). Due to limitations in the included systematic reviews, we are not certain this estimate reflects the true overall effect size. The most robust evidence found suggests charities could increase donations by (1) emphasising individual beneficiaries, (2) increasing the visibility of donations, (3) describing the impact of the donation, and (4) enacting or promoting tax-deductibility of the charity. We make recommendations for improving primary research and reviews about charitable donations, and how to apply the meta-review findings to increase charitable donations.
Preprint
Full-text available
Information Systems (IS) research has traditionally foc used on solving small scale, although not insignificant, problems. However, the discipline has proven less effective at specifying grand challenges-large scale problems that researchers can tackle collaboratively to create highly impactful research outcomes. To explore how grand challenges may be articulated, this paper justifies a potential grand challenge for the IS field (one of many that the field might choose to adopt), which we refer to as prosociet al information systems, or ProSIS. We then discuss a conceptual organizing framework (the ProSIS framework) which disassembles the grand challenge into research initiatives and serves as a boundary object to help IS researc hers to collaborate with other stakeholders in addressing societal challenges.
Article
Full-text available
When is it allowed to carry out an action that saves lives, but leads to the loss of others? While a minority of people may deny the permissibility of such actions categorically, most will probably say that the answer depends, among other factors, on the number of lives saved versus lives lost. Theories of moral reasoning acknowledge the importance of outcome trade-offs for moral judgments, but remain silent on the precise functional form of the psychological mechanism that determines their moral permissibility. An exception is Cohen and Ahn's (2016) subjective-utilitarian theory of moral judgment, but their model is currently limited to decisions in two-option life-and-death dilemmas. Our goal is to study other types of moral judgments in a larger set of cases. We propose a computational model based on sampling and integrating subjective utilities. Our model captures moral permissibility judgments about actions with multiple effects across a range of scenarios involving humans, animals, and plants, and is able to account for some response patterns that might otherwise be associated with deontological ethics. While our model can be embedded in a number of competing contemporary theories of moral reasoning, we argue that it would most fruitfully be combined with a causal model theory.
Preprint
Full-text available
There are currently a multitude of theories, models, and constructs that seek to explain the process of goal pursuit and how to maximize goal attainment. In this paper, we review existing research on the goal pursuit process and propose a model that integrates evidence from a variety of theories and perspectives. The proposed integrative model of goal pursuit explains the process of goal pursuit from inception to attainment (or abandonment) and addresses the influence of the broader social context and the dynamics that may arise when pursuing multiple goals. We also highlight how our integrative model of goal pursuit builds on specific prior theories and models of goal pursuit and self-regulation, and outline implications for future research and practice
Article
Full-text available
People usually engage in (or at least profess to engage in) altruistic acts to benefit others. Yet, they routinely fail to maximize how much good is achieved with their donated money and time. An accumulating body of research has uncovered various psychological factors that can explain why people’s altruism tends to be ineffective. These prior studies have mostly focused on proximate explanations (e.g., emotions, preferences, lay beliefs). Here, we adopt an evolutionary perspective and highlight how three fundamental motives—parochialism, status, and conformity—can explain many seemingly disparate failures to do good effectively. Our approach outlines ultimate explanations for ineffective altruism and we illustrate how fundamental motives can be leveraged to promote more effective giving.
Preprint
Full-text available
Life improvement science is the scientific pursuit of knowledge that is useful for increasing the quality and quantity of thoughts and actions that benefit the well-being of humanity in the long run. What are the goals of life improvement science? The overarching goal of life improvement science is to gain scientific insights that are useful for motivating and enabling people to do more good in better ways (see Figure 1). Doing good, broadly construed, encompasses acting and thinking in ways that are beneficial to the well-being of humanity in the long run. Critically, some good deeds are thousands of times more beneficial than others (MacAskill, 2015). To choose and successfully pursue these highly effective ways to do good, people need not only the motivation to do good but also the ability to make sound decisions. Using reason and evidence to decide how to do the most good, which is known as effective altruism, can enable people to have a substantially larger positive impact than relying on their intuitions or feelings alone (MacAskill, 2015; Bloom, 2017). Since some people associate effective altruism primarily with donating money to effective charities, we refer to its broader meaning of using reason and evidence to do more good in better ways as effective well-doing. As illustrated in Figure 1, life improvement science is a transdisciplinary research field that lays the psychological, technological, philosophical, and sociological foundations for promoting effective well-doing. This includes developing and testing theories and models of
Article
Although moral character may be the most central and consequential facet of one’s personality, existing measures are few and suffer from shortcomings. We present the Moral Character Questionnaire (MCQ) to focus primarily on global moral character and secondarily on six moral domains – Honesty, Compassion, Fairness, Loyalty, Respect, and Purity. All subscales assess core components of personality dispositions, including behavior, motivation, cognition, and identity. Across 14 samples and >13,000 participants, MCQ subscales are generally unidimensional, have good-to-strong reliability, and are temporally stable. Based upon hypotheses regarding 21 criterion measures, analyses reveal strong convergent/discriminant validity. Finally, we found connections between the MCQ scales and core personality traits. The MCQ is an efficient and psychometrically strong measure grounded in contemporary personality theory.
Book
This book provides a reconstruction of Aristotelian character education, shedding new light on what moral character really is, and how it can be highlighted, measured, nurtured and taught in current schooling. Arguing that many recent approaches to character education understand character in exclusively amoral, instrumentalist terms, Kristjánsson proposes a coherent, plausible and up-to-date concept, retaining the overall structure of Aristotelian character education. After discussing and debunking popular myths about Aristotelian character education, subsequent chapters focus on the practical ramifications and methodologies of character education. These include measuring virtue and morality, asking whether Aristotelian character education can salvage the effects of bad upbringing, and considering implications for teacher training and classroom practice. The book rejuvenates time-honoured principles of the development of virtues in young people, at a time when 'character' features prominently in educational agendas and parental concerns over school education systems. Offering an interdisciplinary perspective which draws from the disciplines of education, psychology, philosophy and sociology, this book will appeal to researchers, academics and students wanting a greater insight into character education.
Article
A highly relevant but provocative research question is whether and how one can intentionally change personality traits through psychological interventions, given that traits are relatively stable by definition. Recently, research has begun to investigate personality change through intervention in nonclinical populations. One attractive and innovative interventional avenue may lie in using digital applications to guide and support people in their desire to change their personality and trigger change processes. This article provides a rationale for nonclinical personality-change interventions and discusses motivations to change, the potential of using digital applications for intervention efforts, key studies that illustrate this emerging field of research, and future directions.