Dr. Palmer said. “When you’re 37, rich, retired and unhappy, it’s very perplexing.”
Twenty-two different studies – by Kasser and by other scientists in the field – have found that the more materialistic and extrinsically motivated you become, the more depressed you will be. Twelve have found that these values correlate with increased anxiety.
Junk food looks like food, but it doesn't meet our underlying nutritional needs. In a similar way, junk values look like they might satisfy our psyche, but they don't actually meet any of our underlying psychological needs – to have meaning and connection in our lives.
Extrinsic values are junk food for the soul. Yet our culture constantly pushes us to live extrinsically.
In the 1980s, a social scientist named Professor Tim Kasser set out to test whether the traditional wisdom could survive scientific scrutiny.
Kasser, now based at the University of Illinois, understood, that there are, broadly, two different kinds of motives that drive human beings. Imagine you play the piano. If you play it in the morning because it gives you joy, that is an intrinsic motive – you aren't doing it to get anything else out of it; you are doing it because that experience is worth it doing in and of itself.
Now imagine you play the piano to impress your parents, or in a dive-bar (that you hate) simply to pay the rent, or to seduce somebody into sleeping with you. That would be an extrinsic motive – you aren't doing it because you think the experience is worthwhile; you are doing it to get something out of it, either for a specific purpose or a general outcome.