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

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


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.

Keywords: delay discounting; future rewards; impulsivity; prospection; purpose in life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural