The Happiness Paradox
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.
Question: Is western culture too fixated on happiness?
Dacher Keltner: It is an obsession, isn’t it? This obsession of unhappiness and there’s a historian, Darrin MacMahon, who wrote a wonderful book on the history of happiness. It’s one of my favorite books on happiness and recently he said, you know, only in America can this, an obsession with happiness make you unhappy, and it’s this, you know, you have this feeling that there’s perhaps there’s a little too much reflection on happiness. And I think there’s a very interesting philosophical point alongside that comment which is does this very willful strategic pursuit of happiness bring you happiness? And we don’t know. I think that the pursuit of happiness is essential and vital to our culture. It’s guaranteed in our constitution, the right to the pursuit of happiness and we know from 250 studies in the social and biological sciences that as you cultivate happiness, you become healthier, you become a better neighbor, a better community member. You’re more productive and creative at work. You’re stronger in your family, with your friends. It’s a good thing to go after and we’re lucky that we can, but everything has its excesses and I think there is a risk that it turns into navel-gazing and the one thing that I really felt in writing Born To Be Good is that we risk as our culture defining happiness in terms of sensory pleasures, wow, this is a delicious wine, or in terms of exercise or in terms of personal gratification. That’s a longstanding tradition in western thought, that happiness is economic gain and what I’m trying to encourage is its more social dimension to happiness where you bring out the good in others.
The pursuit of happiness is essential and vital to our culture, but there is a risk that it turns into navel-gazing.
In the office, vulnerability is the opposite of weakness.
- Trust is necessary for a healthy and efficient work environment.
- This trust emerges when not only do we feel safe within our company, but that our leaders genuinely care about us.
- Establishing these relationships requires vulnerability and honesty from both leaders and their employees.
Just hearing two languages helps babies develop cognitive skills before they even speak. Here's how - and how you can help them develop those skills.
A new study shows that babies raised in bilingual environments develop core cognitive skills like decision-making and problem-solving -- before they even speak.
Going from a solitary teenage protester in front of the Swedish parliament to a global icon in little more than a year certainly merits the distinction.
- Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate change activist, has been named Time's Person of the Year.
- The award is given to "the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year, for better or for worse."
- Considering the magnitude of directly inspired protest movements and real-world impacts she has had, the award seems to be merited, although not everybody is pleased about this.