Episode 165: Dr. Glenn Fox on How Emotion Drives Decision Making and the Science of Gratitude

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Dr. Glenn Fox, a neuroscientist at the Brain & Creativity Institute of the University of Southern California, talks about emotion versus feeling, and also the importance of gratitude and its impact on peak performance and how we live our day-to-day lives.

Guest Bio:

Dr. Glenn FoxDr. Glenn Fox is a research fellow at USC’s Brain and Creativity Institute and a co-founder and data scientist at PhD Insight LLC. He earned his PhD from the Neuroscience Graduate Program at the University of Southern California working with Antonio Damasio.  

His research focuses on social cognition, affective neuroscience and social influence, and his dissertation in particular, focuses on the cognitive and neural bases for gratitude. His previous research has focused on group membership and pain observation, a case study of frontal lobotomy, as well as brain development and reading skill in adolescents.

He is also the director and founder of the Research Design Studio, an organization dedicated to giving real research experience to undergraduate students working in the Brain and Creativity Institute. To date, they have overseen the work of well over two dozen undergraduate students, many of whom have moved on to medical schools and graduate programs across the country.

Glenn restores cars, make things out of wood and metal. He also likes to travel and meet interesting people.

He writes about gratitude, nostalgia, restoring cars, and making mistakes while fixing previous mistakes at GlennRFox.com

(sources: glennrfox.com and https://usc.academia.edu/GlennFox)

Show Notes:

(02:31) When you hear the word successful, what’s the first thing that comes to mind and why?

(03:30) Before you met your wife, did you really help to redefine how you looked at success, or did it just kind of drive it home for you?

(05:35) Glenn’s background

(11:25) What did your mother and father do for a living?

(14:01) To me, when I think of brain science or neuroscience, I’m thinking somebody who’s analytical, somebody who’s thinking very linearly when it comes to that. But with you, it’s almost this application of both sides, like you said, the humanities and this approach to the brain that’s really unique… And the fact that you’re applying your research to peak performance, and gratitude and emotion.  What type of neuroscience did you describe?

(14:51) Affective neuroscience

(15:49) You bring up emotion vs reason. What is your research? What should people really know about how emotion comes into decision-making?

(25:11) Peak performance for me is all about how we are prepared for the obstacles, struggles, the barriers that happen along the way… How would you define peak performance? Where does adversity fit in that hole or puzzle?

Peak performance is for everybody.

How we handle ourselves day to day, and how we take the time every day to check in, and to develop a centered self that’s not self-centered is really important for us.

(30:46) Is there an optimal emotional state?

(36:27) How do you define gratitude?

(37:34) Tell us about this research [on gratitude]. There seem to be life extension benefits to gratitude. There’s obviously impact on post-traumatic stress. Tell us the top 3 things that you’re finding out about the research.

(40:12) Tell us what’s happening in the brain when we’re practicing gratitude, having this positive emotion.

(42:25) This research that you did was through the Shoah Foundation. How was that research conducted?

(46:56) And it sounds like there’s a secondary benefit… it sounds like empathy is also important in establishing a baseline for how gratitude is perceived, received and given?

(48:00) These 2 variables, effort and need, that you were talking about in measuring the importance of gratitude. One of the things that is typically talked about with gratitude is, it’s the thought that counts. What did you find out when you tested that out on the research you’ve done?

(51:12) Do you have any books that have most impacted you, and could you share that with the audience?

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain by Antonio Damasio

(53:27) What about documentaries? Do you watch them? And if you do, do you have a favorite?


(55:00) If you could have dinner with one person you admire, past or present, who would it be and why?

Viktor Frankl


Website: http://GlennRFox.com
Research: Holocaust Survivors’ Memories Help Researchers Map Brain Circuitry Of Gratitude

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