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Science of Wellbeing

February 7, 2022

In the zeitgeist of the twenty-first century, "wellbeing" occupies a special place. It is an ideal of personal and communal living, as well as a concept to help us move beyond the tired old categories of progress — such as money, fame, and the gross national product.But despite the noble sentiment around redefining our perception of wellbeing, what exactly it is and how we should measure it remains elusive, and certainly not for lack of effort. The last thirty years have seen a huge rise of investigations into wellbeing in the social sciences and humanities. This academic work has been institutionalized, with new journals, professional societies, and research centers. It is now making successful inroads into the worlds of public policy, commercial self-help, and HR management.But has this latest wave of effort been a success?This research paper on The Science of Wellbeing, co-authored by philosopher Anna Alexandrova and public policy scholar Mark Fabian, dives deep into this question. Alexandrova and Fabian first discuss the state of wellbeing research across key disciplines before turning to look at current and emerging trends – including measurement, impact of wellbeing public policy, and integration of wellbeing theories and perspectives. 

The Science of Prayer: Opportunities and Limits

April 1, 2021

Am I alone? Can anyone hear me? Whether expressed in words or sensed emotionally, it is possible to imagine these questions as the beginnings of the first prayer. Likewise, it is easy to imagine that, once begun, the ways of praying quickly multiplied to include discrete thoughts, behaviors, and emotions, accompanied by physical objects, employed in specific locations, both built and naturally occurring. These experiential and physical developments accompanying the act of prayer, it turns out, are comparatively easy to measure and, in some cases, predict.More challenging is the effort to discern the origins and function of prayer. Some will argue that the impetus to pray comes from outside the person who prays; a divine or "cosmic" force inspires the act. Others will contend that the impulse arises purely from within the individual; it is fundamentally a form of self-talk. The stance adopted establishes the terms of investigation to be conducted and places limits around possible conclusions. This initial ambiguity is not resolvable by scientific researchers because their intellectual tools and conceptual language do not function effectively in this philosophical domain. Nonetheless, to sidestep these questions entirely is to miss the opportunity to systematically explore how these perspectives in and of themselves are amenable to scientific study.

The Science of Awe

September 1, 2018

If you've hiked among giant sequoias, stood in front of the Taj Mahal, or observed a particularly virtuosic musical performance, you may have experienced the mysterious and complex emotion known as "awe."Awe experiences are self-transcendent. They shift our attention away from ourselves, make us feel like we are part of something greater than ourselves, and make us more generous toward others. But what is awe?What types of experiences are most likely to elicit feelings of awe? Are some people more prone to experiencing awe? And what are the effects of awe?While philosophers and religious scholars have explored awe for centuries, it was largely ignored by psychologists until the early 2000s. Since then, there has been growing interest in exploring awe empirically. This has led to a number of fascinating discoveries about the nature of awe, while also raising many questions still to be explored.

The Science of Gratitude

May 1, 2018

Throughout history and around the world, religious leaders and philosophers have extolledthe virtue of gratitude. Some have even described gratitude as "social glue" that fortifiesrelationships—between friends, family, and romantic partners—and serves as thebackbone of human society.But what exactly is gratitude? Where does it come from? Why do some people seem to benaturally more grateful than others? And are there ways we can foster more feelings andexpressions of gratitude?Over the past two decades scientists have made great strides toward understanding thebiological roots of gratitude, the various benefits that accompany gratitude, and the waysthat people can cultivate feelings of gratitude in their day-to-day lives. The studiescomprising this science of gratitude are the subject of this paper.

The Psychology of Purpose

January 1, 2018

As part of its ongoing interest in increasing understanding of character and virtue, the John Templeton Foundation commissioned a review of more than six decades of literature surrounding the nature of human purpose. Covering more than 120 publications tracing back to Victor Frankl's work, the review examines six core questions relating to the definition, measurement, benefits, and development of purpose.

The Science of Generosity

January 1, 2018

People demonstrate generosity in myriad ways, from gifts of time and money to everyday acts of kindness toward loved ones—and even to deeds that involve substantial self-sacrifice, like donating a kidney to a stranger. But we are often nowhere near as generous as we could (or even aspire to) be. In short: although we have the capacity to be generous, we don't always act generously.What are the biological, psychological, and social factors that encourage people to give time, money, and assistance? What effects does such generous behavior have on their well-being? What accounts for differences in individual levels of generosity—and what methods might encourage individuals to give more? Are there evidence-based strategies for cultivating greater degrees of generosity? Such questions have given rise to numerous studies, the results of which are described in a new report commissioned by the John Templeton Foundation. The document provides a high-altitude overview of more than 350 studies and meta-studies published in nearly 200 refereed publications between 1971 and 2017.

From Learning to Progress: John Templeton Foundation 2015 Foundation Report

January 1, 2015

The John Templeton Foundation 2015 Foundation Report, is our new digital publication highlighting impact stories across the Foundation's funding areas.

John Templeton Foundation: Capabilities Report

July 9, 2013

This annual report, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the foundation, includes letters from its leaders, a history of the foundation, details of current grantmaking and other activities, financial statements, and lists of trustees.

Franchising in Frontier Markets: What's Working, What's Not, and Why

December 15, 2009

Summarizes research on franchising as a way to scale small businesses and, in turn, provide jobs and economic and skills development in Africa and South Asia. Examines successful models, conditions, challenges, barriers, and synergies with microfinance.

Does Evolution Explain Human Nature?

April 15, 2009

Compiles short essays by twelve scientists and scholars on how well the theory of evolution explains human nature. Separate link includes video of a panel discussion with three scientists.