Laurie R. Santos

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Laurie R. Santos
Born1975 (age 43–44)
ResidenceNew Haven, Connecticut
Alma materHarvard University
Scientific career
InstitutionsYale University

Laurie Santos (born 1975) is a professor of psychology and cognitive science at Yale University. Her research explores the evolutionary origins of the human mind by comparing the cognitive abilities of humans and non-human animals, including primates and canines.

She is the Director of the Canine Cognition Lab at Yale. She has been a featured TED speaker,[1] and has been listed in Popular Science Magazine as one of their "Brilliant 10" young minds in 2007,[2] and in Time magazine as a "Leading Campus Celebrity" in 2013.[3] In June 2016, she was named the Head of Silliman College, one of the 14 undergraduate residential colleges at Yale, succeeding Nicholas Christakis.

In January 2018, her course titled Psychology and the Good Life became the most popular course in Yale's history, with approximately one-fourth of Yale's undergraduates enrolled.[4][5]


Education and employment[edit]

Santos was born in 1975 in New Bedford, Massachusetts to a family of Cape Verdean descent. She attended New Bedford High School, and went on to obtain her Bachelor of Arts degree magna cum laude in Psychology and Biology from Harvard University in 1997, winning the annual Psychology Department Undergraduate Thesis Prize. She continued her studies as graduate student in the Harvard Psychology Department, obtaining a Ph.D in Psychology in 2003 with a focus on Cognition, Brain and Behavior. Her dissertation won the Richard J. Herrnstein Dissertation Prize of the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for “the best dissertation that exhibits excellent scholarship, originality and breadth of thought, and a commitment to intellectual independence.”

In 2003, she began as an Assistant Professor in Psychology and Cognitive Science at Yale University, earning tenure as an Associate Professor in 2009.

Santos is married to the philosopher Mark Maxwell. She is the sister of author and physicist Aaron Santos.

Honors and awards[edit]

In 2007, Santos was featured in Popular Science Magazine as one of the journal's “Brilliant 10” Young Scientists. In 2008, she was awarded the Stanton[6] Prize for outstanding early-career contributions to interdisciplinary research in Philosophy and Psychology by Society for Philosophy and Psychology. In 2008, she was awarded the Arthur Greer Memorial Prize for Outstanding Junior Faculty at Yale University.[7] In 2010, she was a featured speaker at the TED Global Conference in Oxford, UK.[1]

In 2011, she was featured as the Association for Psychological Science Presidential Symposium Speaker.[8] In 2012, she was awarded the Lex Hixon Prize for teaching excellence in the social sciences at Yale University.[9] In 2013, she was voted as one of Magazine's leading campus celebrities.[10]

Well-being work[edit]

Santos' Yale course "“Psychology and the Good Life”[4][5] focuses on “What actually makes us happy?” and “What can we do to achieve the good life?” It was made available externally on Coursera in March 2018.[11]


Santos's scientific work has appeared in journals such as Psychological Science, Animal Cognition, Developmental Science, Current Biology, Animal Behavior, and Cognition. Her scientific research has been featured in outlets including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Economist, Forbes, The New Yorker, New Scientist, National Wildlife Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, and Discover Magazine as well as on National Public Radio and Nova.[12] She is the editor (with Bruce Hood) of The Origins of Object Knowledge . She has been featured on National Public Radio,[13][14] on Big Think, and—with her colleagues Paul Bloom, Tamar Gendler and Joshua Knobe she is a regular contributor to’s Mind Report.

Santos has had to retract two scientific papers because of coding errors in her lab, and some commentators "have questioned whether [Santos' explanation is] compatible with [a graduate student] being solely responsible for the errors."[15]


  1. ^ a b Santos, Laurie. "Laurie Santos | Speaker | TED".
  2. ^ Mone, Gregory; Wenner, Melinda; Thompson, Kalee; Aaronson, Lauren; Svoboda, Elizabeth (2007-10-03). "PopSci's 6th Annual Brilliant Ten". Popular Science.
  3. ^ Yale University. "Campus News".
  4. ^ a b Shimer, David (2018-01-26). "Yale's Most Popular Class Ever: Happiness". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331.
  5. ^ a b Mariwala, Jever (2018-01-22). "Santos course breaks enrollment record". Yale News.
  6. ^ "Society for Philosophy and Psychology (SPP)". Retrieved 2018-06-02.
  7. ^ "January/February 2009 | Yale College | School Notes | Yale Alumni Magazine". Retrieved 2018-06-02.
  8. ^ Jaffe, Eric (2011-07-29). "Presidential Symposium: Broadband Social Cognition". APS Observer. 24 (6).
  9. ^ Gonzalez, Susan (2012-04-20). "In her lectures, Laurie Santos inspires curiosity and potential colleagues". Yale News.
  10. ^ [1][permanent dead link]
  11. ^ "At Yale Well event, professors serve up the pursuit of happiness three ways". 5 April 2018.
  12. ^ Nova. "Secret Life of Scientists".
  13. ^ LeMoult, Craig (2011-12-01). "Monkeys love discounts too".
  14. ^ NPR. "Sex, Evolution and Human Nature".
  15. ^ "Psychology researcher explains how retraction-causing errors led to change in her lab". Retraction Watch. 2014-01-15. Retrieved 2018-03-13.

External links[edit]