Tag Archives: Psychology

Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence

9780385347334By Rick Hanson Ph.D., author of Hardwiring Happiness (Harmony, December 2016).

My book, Hardwiring Happiness, addresses a fundamental weakness in other positive psychology books: simply having beneficial experiences is not enough; we also need to convert these passing experiences into lasting changes in neural structure or function. If we don’t, there is no learning, no durable healing or growth—which means limited gains from both formal interventions and informal efforts at self-help.

Drawing on research on the neuropsychology of emotional, somatic, and motivational learning, I show you how to use every day experiences to develop important psychological resources such as resilience, compassion, and confidence. I also share how to apply these inner strengths to meet specific personal needs, taking the triune theory of brain evolution as an organizing framework and roadmap.

In Hardwiring Happiness, you will learn:

  • the central importance of psychological resources for effectiveness and well-being, coping with challenges, and managing vulnerabilities;
  • how inner resources are acquired through processes of learning;
  • major mechanisms of experience-dependent neuroplasticity;
  • the two-stage process of learning: from experience to memory, state to trait;
  • about the brain’s evolved negativity bias and how it’s a bottleneck to psychological resource acquisition;
  • mental “learning factors” that increase the encoding and consolidation of experiences into lasting changes in the nervous system—and compensate for the negativity bias;
  • the HEAL framework that organizes learning factors into a step-by-step process that can be used to acquire desired psychological resources and to steepen the learning curve in psychotherapy, mindfulness programs, and human resources training;
  • to use the fourth HEAL step, linking positive and negative material, to reduce and potentially replace painful or harmful thoughts, feelings, and behavior patterns;
  • how the brain evolved to meet our needs for safety, satisfaction, and connection through avoiding harms, approaching rewards, and attaching to others;
  • to use this needs fulfillment framework to develop specific psychological resources for personal issues (e.g., insecure attachment, anxiety, low self-worth).

I hope you will consider Hardwiring Happiness in your coursework.  The book is well-referenced, full of practical applications, and contains many brief experiential practices to deepen embodied learning. It offers an accessible entry into topics of emotional intelligence, resilience, learning, and personal development.

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In this Age of Terrorism, Inside the Criminal Mind is More Relevant than Ever

9780804139908In the wake of recent terrorist attacks across the world, there has been a renewed global conversation about what motivates such criminal behavior, and what can be done to stop it.  As this discussion around violence and other illegal acts develops, Dr. Stanton Samenow’s landmark work Inside the Criminal Mind is more relevant now than ever.

In his recent review of the book, Dr. Michael J. Hurd argued that Inside the Criminal Mind opens “up insights and discussion into the nature of human psychology as something determined primarily by the way a person thinks.”  Placed within the context of Samenow’s profile of a criminal, students can see how the magnitude of crimes have changed since 1984, but the “characteristics of the criminal mind have not.” Continue reading

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The Complex Reality of Juveniles in Adult Prisons


by David Chura, author of I Don’t Wish Nobody to Have a Life Like Mine: Tales of Kids in Adult Lockup(Beacon Press, 2011), Winner of the 2010 PASS Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency

Reynaldo is surprised that he’s made it to another birthday. With so many of his friends killed by the streets, each new year startles him. But he’s not surprised to be locked up again. He’s spent every birthday since he was twelve with kids just like him—“punks,” “gangstas,” other children of disappointment. This time he’s been thrown into the harshest world of all, adult lockup.

Reynaldo is only one of the young people readers meet in I Don’t Wish Nobody to Have a Life Like Mine: Tales of Kids in Adult Lockup. This behind-the-scenes look at kids in prison, an environment that the Verna Institute of Justice describes as “unsafe, unhealthy, unproductive, inhumane,” is a collection of sharply drawn portraits of minors serving time in an adult penitentiary.

The young men and women I met during my ten years of teaching high school in a New York county adult facility were some of the most Continue reading

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Using Carrots and Sticks


by Ian Ayres, author of Carrots and Sticks: Unlock the Power of Incentives to Get Things Done (Bantam, 2010)

Rob Harrison is one of the most beloved teachers at Yale Law School. He has improved the writing and emotional outlook of generations of our students.  He is the kind of guy who unabashedly ends his emails “Love, Rob.” He is staggeringly kind. So it came as a bit of a shock when Rob told me that he had used unforgiving commitment contracts to help students overcome writer’s block. For more than a decade, students have given him checks of up to $10,000, signed and made out to charity, and authorized Rob to mail the checks if they failed to turn in a paper to the course professor by a specified date.

To date, his check-holding commitments have never failed. Rob has never had to mail one of these commitment checks. This is a spectacular result—particularly because Rob only offers the contracts to students who are hard-core procrastinators, kids who have already demonstrated a deep psychological inability of putting pen to paper (or nowadays, finger to keyboard).

I wrote Carrots and Sticks in part to understand why Rob has been so successful. Continue reading


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The Invisible Gorilla

THE INVISIBLE GORILLA by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons

by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, authors of The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us (Crown Archetype, 2010)

More than a decade ago, when we did the experiment that inspired the name of our book, we had no idea that it would become as well known as it has. For us, it was mostly a way for the students in a course we were teaching to work together on a research project on perception and awareness. We created several videos that showed two groups of three people passing basketballs around. The students showed one of these videos to subjects and asked them to count how many times the people wearing white passed the ball. While they were focusing their attention on this task, half of the subjects failed to notice a person in a gorilla suit who casually strolled into the scene, thumped her chest at the camera, and walked off the other side. Continue reading

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The Myth of the Mid-Life Crisis, and the Real Search for Fulfillment

THE SEARCH FOR FULFILLMENT by Susan Krauss Whitbourne

by Susan Krauss Whitbourne, author of The Search for Fulfillment: Revolutionary New Research That Reveals the Secret to Long-term Happiness (Ballantine, 2010)

Read Whitbourne’s recent post, “Why We Love Betty White”, on Psychology Today.

It gives me great pleasure to tell you about my book, The Search for Fulfillment, which is the culmination of my life-long search for answers about what causes people to change in their adult years. As a young assistant professor, I dreamed of being able to chart the pathways of development by conducting a longitudinal study. Through a combination of good fortune and planning, and the willing cooperation of hundreds of participants, I was able to complete the study that forms the core of my book.

My goal in writing the book was to shed light on the myriad ways that people change through life while at the same time identifying systematic patterns to characterize that change. As one of the early pioneers in the pedagogy of adult development and aging, I also hope that my book will be a valuable supplement to college courses in the field. By giving students insight into the real changes that adults experience, the book will educate them about development in adulthood. The book also will illuminate the research process for students. My observations about the research participants form an important part of the book. The mystery and excitement that comes along with opening the questionnaires from participants tested 10, 20, and even 35 years earlier is captured in my personal reflections that accompany the stories of the people in my study.

As a scholar in this field, I have sought to educate readers about the importance of separating myths about midlife from the findings based on empirical data. Continue reading

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“It’s Not About How Smart You Are”

MINDSET by Carol Dweck

In this week’s Chronicle of Higher Education, staff reporter David Glenn has written an interesting piece considering the pioneering work—and controversial viewpoints—of psychologist, professor and author Carol Dweck.  

Dweck, currently a professor at Stanford University, is a leading expert on motivation and personality psychology.  Having done more than twenty years of research on mindset, she has come to form what many consider to be a contratian view: by fostering the belief that intelligence is a fixed trait, and praising students for simply “being smart”, educators do a disservice not only to students but to society-at-large.

The article has sparked varied reactions among Chronicle readers.  In exchange for a free copy of Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, we’d like to get your point of view as well.  Simply read the Chronicle article and/or the book excerpt and post a thoughtful comment here.  Then email us for your free copy (please be sure to include your full school mailing address).


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Ecoliteracy 2.0


by Daniel Goleman, author of  Ecological Intelligence: The Hidden Impacts of What We Buy (Broadway Business, 2010), a book selected by Virginia Tech for its 2009 and 2010 Common Book Project.

Near the start of the 20th century William James wrote that “an education in attention would be the education par excellence.” That was then.

Today, a century after James, I argue that the most crucial education would be in ecological intelligence—and that this demands rethinking and updating curricula in ecoliteracy in fields ranging from physics and chemistry to business and psychology.

Let me explain what I mean by ‘ecological intelligence’. Continue reading


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Can We Really Flip the Switch?

SWITCH by Chip & Dan Heath

Brothers Chip Heath, professor of Organizational Behaviour at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, and Dan Heath, a consultant to the Aspen Institute, have followed up their bestselling and course-adopted book Made to Stick with a groundbreaking book that addresses one of the greatest challenges of our personal and professional lives—how to change things when change is hard.

In Switch, the Heaths have written a thoroughly engaging narrative about the difficulty in bringing about genuine, lasting change—in ourselves and in others—especially when we have few resources and no title or authority.  The Wall Street Journal recently published an interesting review that discusses the book’s message within the context of one reviewer’s personal life challenge, and in a recent video review social and new media  maven Chris Brogan called the book “a must read”.

Check out their reviews by clicking on the links above, and start reading the book here; then post a comment: what do you think of the authors’ message?  Do you see applications in the classroom, among faculty/administration, or within your larger discipline?  Can we really flip the switch?

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