The science of awe & compassion – part 1

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qandaIn conversation with DACHER KELTNER


PROFESSOR DACHER KELTNER is passionate about social justice and just as passionate about the experience of awe and wonder in daily life. How does a professor of psychology study awe, wonder and compassion scientifically?


Q: Hullo Dacher, let’s start with what your role is at UC Berkeley?

DK: I am a Professor of Psychology and I run a big lab, I teach, and then I have this other career, which is the Faculty Director of the Greater Good Science Center. For the first 8 to 10 years I was really deeply involved in building up the center: writing, giving talks and workshops, organizing programs, editing the online magazine and getting out in the world and speaking to healthcare prvoviders, school teachers and the like. And now, we have been really lucky to see it grow organically, such that I am largely in the background, speaking to people when they need it, suggesting themes for our offerings, and doing the occasional talk. So it has been a remarkable growth.

Q: How has it expanded? You have different streams now, such as education. How has that evolved?

DK: We started 15 years ago when the science of the things we were interested in, like gratitude, mindfulness, compassion and empathy, was really just getting off the ground. There was no well-developed literature. So 10 years ago we were involved in building up our content – essays, research briefs, videos, etc. And then, from that platform of content, we first extended it to educators. We hired a couple of education directors and we have a summer institute for educators, I speak to schools, and we consult with educational institutes.

Then we built up a broader worldwide reach with our online ‘Science of Happiness’ course with Emiliana Simon-Thomas, after which we started to go to the workplace. We held a gratitude conference on work. Emiliana and I do a lot of speaking to organizations, and I think that we will eventually move to healthcare, where we will build the wisdom of the Greater Good Science Center into how a medical doctor might advise a patient.

So first we got our content together, and it felt like we had a deep immersive experience for people to move through, and then we extended it strategically. …


Read the complete article in Volume 2, Issue 3

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Interviewed by ELIZABETH DENLEY


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