Currently, Santos’ big project is to positively influence the culture of Yale University by teaching happiness and well-being. She created a course so meaningful that it became the most popular class taken at Yale in over 316 years.
In her course, “Psychology and the Good Life,” Santos teaches her 1,200 students about behavioral change through positive psychology. She wants her students to be more grateful, procrastinate less, and increase social connections. She believes that those positive habits will decrease mental health issues on campus and create happier and more motivated students.
The popularity of the class has prompted Yale to create a free online course. Santos is also the host of the podcast, The Happiness Lab.
From her research, Santos speaks to how we are biologically programmed to be motivated by sex, to be deeply influenced by other people — and to repeat our mistakes. And while Santos often uses subjects from the animal kingdom to help explain our sometimes-illogical behaviors, she also provides advice on how to engage our uniquely human faculties to counteract evolution, choose more wisely, and live happier lives.
Santos was appointed Head of Yale's Silliman College in 2016 to a five-year term. She is a professor of Psychology at Yale University, where she serves as Director of the Comparative Cognition Laboratory as well as the Canine Cognition Center, a research facility that studies how dogs think about the world. She teaches one of Yale’s most popular undergraduate courses, "Sex, Evolution, and Human Nature." She obtained her Ph.D. in Psychology from Harvard University.
Her numerous awards for science, teaching, and mentorship include the Stanton Prize from the Society for Philosophy and Psychology for outstanding contributions to interdisciplinary research.
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