Episode 38: Laurie Santos | The Science & Practice of Happiness | Click to Listen
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After On Podcast #38: The Science & Practice of Happiness
Laurie Santos trained as an evolutionary psychologist at Harvard, and has been a Yale professor for sixteen years. Her early academic work was on animal cognition - with a focus on monkeys and dogs. But she’s now also becoming a major force in positive psychology. This the science of something we’re all interested in: happiness.
There’s a crisis of misery brewing on American campuses, and beyond them as well. Laurie’s frontline exposure to this –plus some really jarring statistical research she came across – propelled her to develop her course.
She launched it almost as an experiment. Then to her astonishment, it became the single most popular class in the university’s 300-plus year history. Fully a quarter of the school took it.
The next thing she knew, she was on the Today show. The New Yorker, and the New York Times were writing about her class. The equivalents of the New York Times in many foreign countries were covering it. In short – she was clearly onto something big.
In honor of Laurie’s animal-friendly work, my buddy Ashby the Dog finally agreed to come along as a co-host of sorts. This is Ashby in the midst of an intensive editing session with me, earlier this evening:
And this is Ashby ingeniously disguised as a cat (she does a bit of undercover work for the K9 unit of the NYPD. Shhhhh - it’s a secret!)
Laurie and I start today’s interview by discussing how the cognitive landscapes of monkeys and dogs differ from our own. The second and longer portion of the interview focuses on the fascinating, and vital science of happiness. This is something a crash version of Laurie’s course, in that we review her key findings & lessons. We also explore many of the techniques that neuroscientists, neuro-psychologists and others have honed to increase happiness levels in those who practice them.
I should stress that none of this is hokey self-help gimmickry. It all stems from meticulous research that’s been done at top universities throughout the world, and published in academic journals.
I’d like to dedicate this episode to the memory of my father, who passed away in the short span of time between the recording of this interview and it’s publication. Rest in peace, Dad – we all miss you.