We are delighted to announce that Dacher Keltner, Ph.D., has joined the Advisory Board of the Integrative Law Institute. A leading researcher and scholar in the relatively new field of positive psychology, Dacher is the executive editor of Greater Good, the founding faculty director of the Greater Good Science Center, and a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also the author of Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life and a co-editor of The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness. His prolific research and writing have helped to transform our understanding of what it means to be human by investigating positive attributes such as compassion, empathy, cooperation, and altruism as the evolutionary endowment that enabled our survival and flourishing as a species, and that make us–well–human.
Here is a description of the domain of positive psychology that makes it clear why ILI includes basic elements of positive psychology in its programming for lawyers:
Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. . . . This field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.
Positive Psychology has three central concerns: positive emotions, positive individual traits, and positive institutions. Understanding positive emotions entails the study of contentment with the past, happiness in the present, and hope for the future. Understanding positive individual traits consists of the study of the strengths and virtues, such as the capacity for love and work, courage, compassion, resilience, creativity, curiosity, integrity, self-knowledge, moderation, self-control, and wisdom. Understanding positive institutions entails the study of the strengths that foster better communities, such as justice, responsibility, civility, parenting, nurturance, work ethic, leadership, teamwork, purpose, and tolerance.
Dacher Keltner’s research interests include not only the workings of emotion and power in social relationships (areas of obvious relevance to lawyers whose clients are experiencing legal issues that arise from fractured human relationships) but also human morality. Here is how he describes that aspect of his work:
My final research interest lies in the study of how humans negotiate moral concerns. Here I have examined how opposing partisans tend to assume that they alone see the issues objectively and in principled fashion, a tendency we call “naive realism”. We have shown that opposing partisans attribute extremism and bias to their opponents.
In studies of moral judgment, I have shown how emotions such as anger, sadness, and fear influence judgments of causality, fairness, and risk. More recently, I have begun to study the contents of three moral domains – autonomy, community, and purity – and how these domains relate to emotion and prejudice.
Morality, “neuro-morality,” and positive psychology are vectors that ILI includes in its programs teaching Integrative Law. It is exciting and gratifying for us to have the support of one of the most creative scholars in the field.