A Meta-Analysis of the Dark Side of the American Dream: Evidence for the Universal Wellness Costs of Prioritizing Extrinsic Over Intrinsic Goals

Emma L. Bradshaw, James H. Conigrave, Ben A. Steward, Kelly A. Ferber, Philip D. Parker, Richard M. Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Self-determination theory holds that the intrinsic and extrinsic content of people’s aspirations differentially affect their wellness. An evidence base spanning nearly 30 years indicates that focusing on intrinsic goals (such as for growth, relationships, community giving, and health) promotes well-being, whereas a focus on extrinsic goals (such as for wealth, fame, and beauty) deters well-being. Yet, the evidence base contains exceptions, and some authors have argued that focusing on extrinsic goals may not be universally detrimental. We conducted a systematic review and used multilevel meta-analytic structural equation modeling to evaluate the links between intrinsic and extrinsic aspirations with indices of well-being and illbeing. Across 92 reports (105 studies), 1,808 effects, and a total sample of N = 70,110, we found that intrinsic aspirations were linked positively with well-being, r = 0.24 [95% CI 0.22, 0.27], and negatively with ill-being, r = −0.11 [−0.14, −0.08]. When the variety of extrinsic aspiration scoring methods were combined, the link with well-being was not statistically significant, r = 0.02 [−0.02, 0.06]. However, when extrinsic aspirations were evaluated in terms of their predominance in the overall pattern of aspiring the effect was universally detrimental, linking negatively to well-being, r = −0.22 [−0.32, −0.11], and positively to ill-being, r = 0.23 [0.17, 0.30].

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • Autonomy
  • Flourishing
  • Life satisfaction
  • Resolutions
  • Strivings

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'A Meta-Analysis of the Dark Side of the American Dream: Evidence for the Universal Wellness Costs of Prioritizing Extrinsic Over Intrinsic Goals'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this