‘The Happiness Lab’ explores ideas of joy with Yale professor Dr. Laurie Santos

Science October 8, 2021
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Listen to ‘The Happiness Lab’

Personally, we think that if you are listening to this podcast, you can put Yale University right under the education section of your resume. “The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos” is a Pushkin podcast about the science and psychology of happiness. Yale professor Laurie Santos has studied this science and found that most people do the exact opposite of what would make them happier. So she has set out to change to the way you think about happiness.

But first, back to that Yale thing: Dr. Santos’ psychology course at the Ivy is actually the most popular class in the university’s 300-year history. And she’s bringing that Ivy League education to all of us. She takes us through the latest scientific research on happiness to help us lead better lives.

Her episodes are, obviously, incredibly well-presented: they are fascinating and educational to the nth degree. “The Happiness Lab” covers topics typically associated with the emotion, from money to success to fitness, and breaks them down. Dr. Santos sits down with other experts to talk about their research into the seemingly endless search for human happiness.

The paradox of happiness

Her episode “The Unhappy Millionaire” was her first and one of her most popular. In it, she chats with Dr. Dan Gilbert on why human happiness isn’t affected by major events like we anticipate. She looks at huge events both positive and negative, like winning the lottery or being diagnosed with an incurable disease.

Other episodes include how to feed yourself for peak happiness, giving and receiving the perfect gift, the power of made-up rituals, and psychopaths and super altruists. Her series “Happiness Lessons of the Ancients” looks at the history of happiness, what we used to do to achieve it, and how the great thinkers conceptualized it. Dr. Santos looks at The Torah, Forgiveness as learned in the Bible, and the thinkings of Confucius and Lao Tzu on how to lead a happier life.

The kindness of strangers

A recent episode titled “The Kindness of Strangers” shares the infamous story of Kitty Genovese. In 1964, she was stabbed to death outside of her apartment building in Queens, New York. It was reported that 38 people saw or heard the attack, yet nobody called the police. This claim has actually gone on to be false for multiple reasons (no one saw the attack in its entirety and two people did call the police after the fact), but the incident went on to be called “the bystander effect” and became a staple in psychology textbook for decades. Dr. Santos goes on to explain the multiple studies that were done to test this phenomenon with mixed results. She explains that this effect, or even the idea that this effect exists, has a huge effect on our collective happiness. What does the bystander effect say about human nature? Are we all doomed to a life of apathy towards strangers?

Dr. Santos’ guest for this episode is Vietnam veteran and a person closely connected to Kitty, Bill Genovese. He was 16 when his older sister was murdered, and he was flabbergasted after hearing that there were multiple witnesses who did not intervene (which has, once again, been discovered that the Time’s article first reporting on it is flawed and misleading.) Between him and “The Happiness Lab’s” other guest, Lady Gaga’s mother, they discuss how the kindness of strangers is a link to individual and collective happiness.

“The Happiness Lab” episodes average out at around 40 minutes, shorter than your average college lecture. You will learn invaluable information not only on psychology from a Yale professor, but on how to be happier. Dr. Santos made this podcast in the hopes that these studies and stories will change the way that we think about joy and contentment. Check out “The Happiness Lab” to find out the true meaning of happiness.

Listen to ‘The Happiness Lab’
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