Aspirations and Well-Being in a Prison Setting1


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    This work was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH18922) to the Human Motivation Program of the University of Rochester. Thanks to Danny Bitran, Richard Ryan, and the staff and students of the college program where this research was conducted.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Tim Kasser, Department of Psychology, Box 1658, Knox College, Galesburg, IL 61401. e-mail address:


The relationship between the content of goals and well-being depends both on whether goals are congruent with inner psychological needs (Kasser & Ryan, 1993, 1996a) and whether goals are supported in one's environment. The current study examines how the pursuit of 6 different goals relates to the psychological well-being of maximum security prisoners. The relative centrality of goals supported in prison, such as physical health, was generally positively related to well-being, whereas the pursuit of goals not supported in prison, such as self-acceptance and affiliation, was negatively related to well-being. Discussion focuses on the importance of considering goals in the context of people's environment.