#217 – Happiness and Health with Dacher Keltner

photo of Dr. Dacher Keltner


Dacher Keltner, Ph.D. received his BA in Psychology and Sociology from UC Santa Barbara in 1984 and his PhD in Social Psychology from Stanford University in 1989. After a post-doc at UCSF with Paul Ekman, in 1992 he took his first academic job, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and then returned to Berkeley’s Psychology Department in 1996, where he is now a full professor.

Dacher’s research focuses on two time-honored questions. A first is the biological and evolutionary origins of human goodness, with a special concentration on compassion, awe, love, and beauty. A second is the study of power, status and social class, and the nature of moral intuitions. Dacher is the co-author of two best selling textbooks, one on human emotion, the other on social psychology, as well as Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, published in January 2009 by WW Norton Publishers, which makes the case for an evolutionary approach to the emotions that promote human goodness.

Dacher has published over 100 scientific articles, he has written for the New York Times Magazine and Utne Reader, and has received numerous national prizes and grants for his research. His research has been covered in TIME, Newsweek, the New York Times, the BBC, CNN, NPR, and in many other outlets. For his teaching and mentoring was selected as the Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor in 2002, and the Outstanding Teacher, Division of Social Sciences, in 2002. WIRED magazine recently rated Dacher’s podcasts from his course Emotion as one of the five best educational downloads, and the Utne Reader selected Dacher for one of its 50 2008 visionaries. Dacher also serves as the Director of the Berkeley Greater Good Science Center, where he serves as co-editor of the center’s magazine, Greater Good. Dacher lives in Berkeley with his wife, an alumna of Berkeley, and their two daughters.

Dr. Keltner will be doing several presentations on Happiness and Health in the SF Bay Area for the Institute for Brain Potential. He’ll be presenting in Palo Alto on Sept. 11, 2009, in San Rafel on Sept 19, and in San Francisco on September 26. For more information on registration and CEUs, go to the Intitute for Brain Potential website at www.IBPCEU.com. Look for me at the Sept. 19 event, I’ll probably be wearing a black shirt that says Shrink Rap Radio over the breast pocket.

In addition to the seminars Dacher’s doing for the Institute for Brain Potential, he’s also doing a Greater Good Science Center seminar in Los Angeles on 9/10/09 with Sonja Lyubomirsky, “Why to Be Good, How to Be Happy.” His Greater Good Science Center is also hosting a seminar in Berkeley on 9/25/09, “Forgiveness and Gratitude,” featuring Stanford’s Fred Luskin and Bob Emmons of UC Davis. Some of you might recall that I interviewed Fred Luskin about his work on forgiveness on SRR #57 back in April of 2008. You might enjoy reviewing that one in the context of Dacher Keltner’s remarks in this current interview. You can get registration information for these presentations at the Greater Good website, which you’ll find at www. http://greatergood.berkeley.edu

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A psychology podcast by David Van Nuys, Ph.D.



  1. suz
    Posted August 28, 2009 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    So cool to hear a podcast featuring Dacher Keltner! Was a full, rich interview as well.

    It was clear in 1992 at the UW he was a winner. There’s a great photo somewhere out there of Dacher greeting the Dalai Lama – connected with his emotion work.

    Now that my memory has been triggered, another star that was burgeoning at the UW during that era ,whom I’d love to hear represented on this podcast, is Andrew Elliot – king of approach/ avoidance motivation – now at Rochester.

    Gotta love that social psych –

  2. Brad J
    Posted September 11, 2009 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Another enjoyable interview on positive psychology. Have been unsuccessfully searching iTunes for the lecture series Dacher mentioned. Would love to listen to a semester\’s worth of material on the topic!

  3. John T
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Dr Dave,

    Here is the link that Dr. Dacher mentioned in the interview. Look for Human Happiness class here for his course.


  4. Posted October 9, 2009 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, John,

    I had to search your link to find the webcast. This link might be better:

    Basically, you are looking for Arts and Science C160V (rather than under Psychology)


  5. Posted October 10, 2009 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    I just realized that you can subscribe to Keltner’s lecture series in iTunes by pasting in the feed address from my previous post. Just go to the Advanced menu in iTunes and click on Subscribe to Podcast.


  6. Posted November 5, 2009 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    I have reviewed this podcast and referred to Keltner’s course at Berkeley (with reference to two reviews about this course at DIY Scholar)

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