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In Search of the Organismic Valuing Process: The Human Tendency to Move Towards Beneficial Goal Choices


  • The authors are all at the Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri, 217 McAlester Hall, Columbia, Missouri 65211.
    We thank Nicola Baumann, Tim Kasser, and Miguel Kazen for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article.

concerning this manuscript can be addressed to Ken Sheldon, 217 McAlester Hall, Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, Missouri 65211.


Abstract We attempted to test Rogers' (1951) concept of the organismic valuing process (OVP) by assessing changes in peoples' goal choices over time. When changes occur, are they more or less random, or do people tend to move towards goals that are more likely to be beneficial, both for themselves and others? “Beneficial” goals were defined as goals typically associated with subjective well-being (SWB) and with prosocial behavior—specifically, we focused on the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic goal contents (Kasser & Ryan, 1996). In three studies, participants tended to move towards intrinsic goals and/or away from extrinsic goals over periods ranging from 20 minutes to 6 weeks. These changes were not reducible to social desirability nor to the differing motives underlying differing goal contents, did not vary for persons of different value-types, and had not changed when participants were retested a third time. We conclude that people may have a positive bias toward changing their minds in directions most likely to be SWB enhancing.