Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Kenneth Logan PsyD

Second Advisor

Dr. Bill Buhrow Jr. PsyD

Third Advisor

Dr. Kathleen Gathercoal PhD


The dissertation investigated the interplay between an elevated sense of purpose moderated by heightened altruistic motivation and sustained attention in a college undergraduate population. Drawing on existing literature highlighting the positive effects of purpose on well-being and cognitive abilities, the study introduced an experimental design to explore the causal relationship between purpose and attention. Participants were recruited from the undergraduate population of a Christian liberal arts university in the Pacific Northwest. A continuous performance test (CPT) —the AX-CPT paradigm—was utilized to assess sustained attention. The experimental group was prompted with the opportunity to earn a monetary donation for a humanitarian organization based on their task performance, while the control group received no such prompt. The study examined the influence of motivation on attentional capacity. Results indicated no significant difference in attentional performance between the experimental and control groups, though a statistically detectable difference was observed in reaction time between working and non-working students. Further analysis explored trends in reaction time, accuracy, and motivation ratings, revealing complex relationships that challenge preconceived notions. The findings contribute to understanding attention, motivation, and purpose, emphasizing the need for nuanced measures and suggesting avenues for future research.

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