Dacher Keltner is a social psychologist who focuses on the prosocial emotions, such as love, sympathy and gratitude, and processes such as teasing and flirtation that enhance bonds. He has conducted empirical studies in three areas of inquiry.

A first looks at the determinant and effects of power, hierarchy and social class. A second in concerned with the morality of everyday life, and how we negotiate moral truths in teasing, gossip, and other reputational matters. A third and primary focus in on the biological and evolutionary basis of the benevolent affects, including compassion, awe, love, gratitude, and laughter and modesty.

Professor Keltner is Co-Director of The Greater Good Science Center and the author of Born to Be Good.

“When people say ‘I just want to be happy,’ in a way that’s the wrong question. What they should be thinking about is, ‘I would love to strengthen my capacity for gratitude or compassion.’”

In This Episode:

  • Parents enabling to him search for what he loved
  • The cost of living a life fueled by passion
  • Being overwhelmed with panic attacks in early life
  • Utilizing your imagination to tackle anxiety by constructing alternatives
  • Strategies for controlling emotions through breathing
  • The difference between feelings, emotions, and sensations
  • The 15 basic themes in life that matter to us
  • Showing compassion in the right context
  • How people acquire power
  • The problems that arise once people obtain heightened power
  • Key signs that power has corrupted someone
  • The role he played assisting with the movie “Inside Out”
  • The pathways to happiness + joy: compassion, awe, and gratitude
  • The tensions between compassion and power
  • Understanding when exerting tough compassion is necessary


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