Laurie Santos appointed the Chandrika and Ranjan Tandon Prof. of Psychology
Laurie Santos, whose contributions to psychology and the science of well-being will have an enduring positive impact on people around the world, has been appointed the Chandrika and Ranjan Tandon Professor of Psychology. Her appointment was effective Feb. 20.
A member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Santos has emerged as a leading expert on the origins of human cognition and the cognitive biases that impede better choices. The director of Yale’s Comparative Cognition Lab and the Canine Cognition Center, her research has been widely featured in the news media, including The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Economist. She was voted one of Popular Science magazine’s “Brilliant 10” young minds and was profiled in Time magazine as a “Leading Campus Celebrity.” Her spectacularly popular podcast, “The Happiness Lab,” has more than 35 million downloads, and her class “Psychology and the Good Life” remains the most popular course that Yale College has ever offered.
As director of the Comparative Cognition Lab, Santos explores an age-old question: what makes the human mind unique? She and her students test this question by studying the cognitive capacities of two different groups of non-human animals: non-human primates and domesticated dogs. By testing our close non-human primate relatives, Santos’s lab has made numerous discoveries about the evolutionary origins of human cognition. By studying domesticated dogs — a species that lives closely with humans — Santos’s lab has discovered how experiences in a human-like environment have shaped our cognitive development.
Santos became interested in studying the science of well-being after she was appointed as Head of Silliman College in 2016. Since then, she has spearheaded a number of new initiatives to support student well-being on campus and beyond. In partnership with the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning, Santos developed “The Science of Well-Being” on Coursera.org, an award-winning massive open online course that now has over 3 million learners enrolled. In 2019, she founded The Good Life Center, Yale’s first campus wellness center aimed at empowering students with evidence-based skills for fostering mental, physical, social, and emotional well-being. In 2021, she developed a high school version of her course, which is now being offered to more than 700 low-income high-school students around the country.
Santos is a graduate of Harvard University, where she received her A.B. in psychology and biology in 1997 and her Ph.D. in psychology in 2003. She was then recruited to the Yale faculty as an assistant professor of psychology and was awarded tenure in 2010.