Dr. Laura L. Carstensen is Professor of Psychology and the Fairleigh S. Dickinson Jr. Professor in Public Policy at Stanford University where she serves as founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity (2007) and the principal investigator for the Stanford Life-span Development Laboratory. In addition to her role as professor of psychology, she served as the Barbara D. Finberg director of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research (1997-2001) and chair of the psychology department (2004-2006). Dr. Carstensen is best known in academia for socioemotional selectivity theory (SST), which has illuminated developmental changes in social preferences, emotional experience and cognitive processing from early adulthood to advanced old age. SST is a life-span theory of motivation, which posits that people prioritize emotionally meaningful goals when time horizons are constrained. By examining postulates of socioemotional selectivity theory, Dr. Carstensen and her colleagues identified and developed the conceptual basis of the positivity effect.
Considered a thought leader on longevity, her research has been supported by the National Institute on Aging for more than 25 years, and she is currently supported through a prestigious MERIT Award. In 2011, she authored the book, A Long Bright Future: Happiness, Health, and Financial Security in an Age of Increased Longevity. Her essays and opinion pieces have appeared in the New York Times, Time magazine, and The Boston Globe. Her TED talk has been viewed more than a million times. Dr. Carstensen has served on the National Advisory Council on Aging and the MacArthur Foundation’s Research Network on an Aging Society. In 2016 she was inducted into the National Academy of Medicine. She has won numerous awards, including the Kleemeier Award from the Gerontological Society of America, a Guggenheim fellowship, and the Master Mentor Award from the American Psychological Association. She received a BS from the University of Rochester and PhD in clinical psychology from West Virginia University.