The Theory of Happiness

Available to watch on-demand now

Happiness: is it a science, or is it an art? To help us all get through the deepest and darkest part of January, we're exploring what researchers and deep thinkers have to say about what makes us happy.

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DatesAvailable to watch on-demand now
Talks structure30 minute lecture20 minute Q&A

3 talks in this Garden Series



Psychology & Behaviour
Are our hormones being hijacked by technology?

Dopamine is our feel-good hormone: the one that encourages us to seek out pleasure. But the relentless pursuit of pleasure can lead to pain too. How can we find contentment in an age of instant gratification and overindulgence? Read more

Dr. Anna Lembke, MD

Stanford University

Dr. Anna Lembke is professor of psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine and chief of the Stanford Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic. She studies not only how humans become reliant on drugs and alcohol, but also addictions to all kinds of other things, including food, sex, gambling, smartphones, social media, video games and medication.

Anna was one of the first people in the medical community to speak out about the opioid epidemic in the USA, which she tackled in her book, Drug Dealer, MD – How Doctors Were Duped, Patients Got Hooked, and Why It’s So Hard to Stop.

Anna's latest book, Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence, looks at the role that the hormone dopamine plays in addiction and how we can moderate compulsive overconsumption in a dopamine-overloaded world.

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Literature & Language
Psychology & Behaviour
Why does comedy make us happy?

Humans have created art to provoke laughter for millennia. Why does comedy work, and what does it reveal about the counterintuitive biology of the human brain? Read more

Prof. Angus Fletcher

Ohio State University

When Angus Fletcher first started out in the lab as a young neuroscientist, he believed that the human brain was just like a computer. He soon discovered he was wrong; the brain wasn't data driven or logical but rather emotional, creative and driven by stories.

Today as Professor of Story Science at Ohio State University, Angus specialises in using art & literature to unlock the neuroscience of human creativity and emotional resilience. His research has been called "mind-blowing" by Malcolm Gladwell and has been endorsed by leading scholars in neuroscience, psychology, medicine and literature.

Angus has written two recent books, Wonderworks and Storythinking, and has published dozens of peer-reviewed articles.

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Psychology & Behaviour
Is happiness a modern invention?

Today, we tend to think about happiness as a right: a natural goal all humans strive towards. How could it be possible that this idea came into being just two hundred years ago? Read more

Prof. Darrin McMahon

Dartmouth College

Darrin McMahon is a Professor of European Intellectual History at Dartmouth College in the USA. He researches and writes about the history of ideas.

Darrin's work focuses on how concepts like happiness and genius have been approached through history, and has been featured in publications like the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe and the Wall Street Journal. His book Happiness: A History was labelled one of the Best Books of the Year by the New York Times, The Washington Post, the Library Journal, and Slate Magazine.

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