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Pers Individ Dif. 2016 Feb;90:187-189. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2015.11.010.

Waiting with purpose: A reliable but small association between purpose in life and impulsivity.

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Department of Human Development, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 14853.
Human Neuroscience Institute, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 14853.
Contributed equally


Purpose in life contributes to health and wellbeing. We examine the link between purpose and behavioral impulsivity that may account for these benefits. In a community sample of 503 adults, we found a small yet reliable positive association between purpose and valuing future rewards on a delayed discounting task, a behavioral index of impulsivity. This bootstrapped correlation remained after accounting for Big-5 personality traits, positive affect, and demographic characteristics, suggesting a unique and robust link between purpose and impulsivity (r = .1). We interpret this connection as evidence that purpose enables a broader life view, which serves to inhibit impulsive distractions.


delay discounting; future rewards; impulsivity; prospection; purpose in life

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