Dacher Keltner

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Dacher Keltner
Dacher Keltner.jpg
Alma materStanford University Ph.D., 1989
University of California at Santa Barbara B.A., 1984
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Berkeley 1996–present
University of Wisconsin–Madison 1992–1996
ThesisMisperceptions of the Other Side's Views: A Source of Conflict and Conflict Resolution (1989)
Doctoral advisorLee Ross

Dacher Joseph Keltner is a Mexican-born American professor of psychology at University of California, Berkeley, who directs the Berkeley Social Interaction Lab.[1] He is also the founder and faculty director of the Greater Good Science Center,[2] host of the podcast The Science of Happiness,[3] and Chief Scientific Advisor of Hume AI.[4]


Keltner was born in Jalisco, Mexico, the offspring of two early members of the counterculture. Keltner's mother, a literature professor, and father, an artist, raised both him and his brother in Laurel Canyon in the late 1960s. When his mother secured her first job as a professor in 1970, they moved to a conservative town in the foothills of the California Sierra Nevada.

Keltner received his B.A. in psychology and sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1984, he received his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1989, and he completed three years of post-doctoral work with Paul Ekman at the University of California, San Francisco.[5]

Academic career[edit]

Keltner began his academic career at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and then returned to University of California, Berkeley's Psychology Department in 1996 attaining full professorship in 2002.[6]

His research focuses on the biological and evolutionary origins of compassion, awe, love, beauty, and power, social class, and social inequality.[7]

Keltner is the co-author of two textbooks, as well as the best-selling Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, The Compassionate Instinct, and most recently, in May 2016, The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence. Keltner has published over 190 scientific articles, he has written for The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times, The London Times, The Wall Street Journal, SLATE, Utne Reader, and has received numerous national prizes and grants for his research.[6] His research has been covered in Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, the BBC, CNN, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, and in many other outlets, and been a focus in two panels with the Dalai Lama.[5]

His Science of Happiness MOOC at EdX has had over 300,000 enrollees. Keltner has received the outstanding teacher and research mentor awards from UC Berkeley, and seen 20 of his PhD students and post-doctoral fellows become professors. Wired magazine recently rated his podcasts from his course Emotion as one of the five best educational downloads, and the Utne Reader selected Keltner for one of its 50 2008 visionaries.[8]

Keltner has collaborated with directors at Pixar, including film director and animator Pete Docter in preparation of his 2015 film Inside Out.[9] He has worked and continues to work with Facebook engineers and designers on projects such as Facebook stickers and Facebook reactions.[10] He has also worked on projects at Google on altruism and emotion, and was recently[when?] featured in Tom Shadyac’s movie I Am.[11]

Keltner is also collaborating with the Sierra Club to get veterans and inner city kids outdoors. Building upon his experiences in a restorative justice program with prisoners in San Quentin Prison, Keltner wrote a brief for a case – Ashker v. Governor of California – that led to the curtailment of solitary confinement in maximum-security prisons in California.

Theory of power[edit]

Together with Deborah H. Gruenfeld of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Cameron Anderson,[12] psychologist at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, Keltner has developed a theory of power that aims to present an integrative account of the effects of power on human behavior, suggesting that the acquisition of power has a disinhibiting effect regarding the social consequences of exercising it.[13][14][15]

Science of happiness[edit]

In his book Born to be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, Keltner explores the science behind well-being. The book attempts to counter the bias that we are wired to be self-interested. Keltner explores the Confucian idea of the jen ratio; the relationship between actions that bring the good of others to completion and those that bring out bad. The greater score is a direct relation to your happiness. In the book he touches on the qualities of gratitude, compassion, play, awe, embarrassment and teasing and how these qualities are innate in people but also can be developed.[16]

Personal life[edit]

Keltner lives in Berkeley, California ,with his wife, Mollie McNeil, an alumna of UC Berkeley, and their two daughters Natalie and Serafina.[5]


  • Keltner, Dacher. The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence. Penguin, 2016. ISBN 9781594205248;[17]
  • Keltner, Dacher, Jason Marsh, and Jeremy Adam Smith, editors, The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2010. ISBN 9780393337280[18]
  • Keltner, Dacher. Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life. W. W. Norton, 2009. ISBN 9780393073577.
  • Keltner, Dacher, Keith Oatley, and Jennifer M. Jenkins. Understanding Emotions 3rd ed. ISBN 9781118147436;[19] prev. ed. published by Blackwell Publishers, 1996.
  • Gilovich, Thomas, Dacher Keltner, and Richard E. Nisbett. Social Psychology. New York: W. W. Norton, 2006 ISBN


  1. ^ "Berkeley Social Interaction Lab". BSI Lab. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  2. ^ "Staff". Greater Good Science Center. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  3. ^ "science-happiness". Greater Good Science Center. Retrieved 21 May 2019.
  4. ^ "Hume AI". Hume AI. Retrieved 22 Dec 2021.
  5. ^ a b c Dacher, Keltner. "About". The Greater Good Science Center. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  6. ^ a b Dacher, Keltner. "Curriculum vitae" (PDF). Greater Good Science Center. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  7. ^ "Dacher Keltner - UC Psych". psychology.berkeley.edu.
  8. ^ "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World". Archived from the original on 2015-04-23. Retrieved 2015-04-21.
  9. ^ J. Wesley Judd (July 8, 2015). "A Conversation With the Psychologist Behind 'Inside Out'". Pacific Standard. Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media and Public Policy. Retrieved July 9, 2015.
  10. ^ "Facebook Reactions, the Totally Redesigned Like Button, Is Here". 'Wired. Retrieved 2017-09-19.
  11. ^ "Project Awe Team". Archived from the original on 2015-06-22. Retrieved 2015-04-21.
  12. ^ "Faculty and Executive Leadership Directory". Haas School of Business. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  13. ^ Lehrer, Jonah (14 August 2010). "The Power Trip". The Wall Street Journal. Contrary to the Machiavellian cliché, nice people are more likely to rise to power. Then something strange happens: Authority atrophies the very talents that got them there.
  14. ^ Robertson, Ian H. (March 2013). "How power affects the brain". British Psychological Society.
  15. ^ Keltner, Dacher; Gruenfeld, Deborah H; Anderson, Cameron (2003). "Power, Approach and Inhibition" (PDF). Psychological Review. 110 (2): 265–284. CiteSeerX doi:10.1037/0033-295X.110.2.265. PMID 12747524. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-11-30. Retrieved 2014-12-03.
  16. ^ Grothe, D.J. "Dacher Keltner - Born to be Good". Point of Inquiry. Center for Inquiry. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  17. ^ Keltner, Dacher (30 November 2017). The power paradox: how we gain and lose influence. OCLC 929055993.
  18. ^ Keltner, Dacher; Marsh, Jason; Smith, Jeremy Adam (30 November 2017). The compassionate instinct: the science of human goodness. W. W. Norton & Co. OCLC 317920038.
  19. ^ Keltner, Dacher; Oatley, Keith; Jenkins, Jennifer M (30 November 2017). Understanding emotions. OCLC 828718067.

External links[edit]