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Producers of New PBS Series Joined By Experts to Reveal Science Behind Happiness

NEW YORK, Oct. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Psychologists and individuals profiled in the new PBS documentary This Emotional Life joined best-selling author and Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert at the Paley Center for Media in New York for a discussion on what scientists have learned about how early life moments can shape a lifetime pursuit of happiness.

"The secrets of happiness aren't secrets anymore," said Gilbert, psychologist and host of the series, which is a co-production of Vulcan Productions and the WGBH/NOVA Science Unit. "As scientists now know, social relationships, more than any other factor, are the key to human happiness."

This Emotional Life unfolds across three, two-hour episodes, exploring ways we can improve our social relationships, cope with negative emotions such as depression and anxiety and become more positive, resilient individuals. Each episode weaves together the compelling personal stories of ordinary people and the latest scientific research, along with revealing comments from celebrities such as Chevy Chase, Larry David, Elizabeth Gilbert, Alanis Morissette, Katie Couric and Richard Gere.

At the midday briefing, Senior Executive Producer Richard Hutton of Vulcan Productions and Executive Producer Dyllan McGee of Kunhardt McGee Productions provided a preview of "Families, Friends and Lovers," the first episode, which explores how human relationships go right, how they go wrong and what we can do to improve them.

"The human stories in this series are deeply moving; they open a window into our very nature, helping us understand why we behave the way we do," said Hutton.

"This Emotional Life is about human connections and understanding how our social interactions are deeply wired in our brains," said Paula Apsell, Senior Executive Producer, WGBH/NOVA Science Unit. "The series looks at the latest, cutting-edge biological and social science behind our human nature to help us better understand what drives our emotions and what can lead us to happiness."

"With This Emotional Life we wanted to explore some of the problems real people are dealing with, what science tells us about the nature of those problems and how individuals can address these problems," added McGee. "What we found out is that good social relationships play an important role in improving our overall wellbeing."

Psychologist Dr. Jessica Zucker provided insights into how research on human emotions has informed her work with mothers and infants. "We are just beginning to understand scientifically the importance of parent - infant interactions in laying the foundation for healthy relationships with siblings, friends, co-workers and lovers," Zucker said.

The panel also included Lois Ross, who appears in the documentary with her son Jason, a 29 year-old sonographer living in New York who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a neurological disorder that makes it difficult to read others' emotions. Ross is among several parents profiled in This Emotional Life who have helped their children understand social and relationship skills that did not come naturally.

"There's one thing about Jason and it always warms my heart," Ross said. "He never gives up. In the face of adversity, he just keeps going along."

In the series, viewers have a front-row seat with panelist Dr. Xavier Amador as he worked with a couple who made a connection, but are now struggling to save it.

"Our ability to sustain and grow healthy relationships get tested almost daily when we pick a life partner and start out own family," Amador said. "Research shows that many people can heal and nurture failing relationships by applying well studied, but underutilized, psychological principles. Marriage therapy is a tremendously important, powerful tool to which more people should become open."

The film is complemented by a content-rich website,, designed by New York digital communications firm Method. It provides vetted resources and opportunities to build social support networks around topics highlighted in the series, such as the importance of early attachment, how to heal strained or damaged relationships, PTSD, stress, depression, grief, resilience and our pursuit of happiness.

Hutton announced that, as a result of research conducted in the making of the documentary, Vulcan productions is working with social change firm Cause and Affect and experts to create additional resources on early attachment for parents of infants and reintegration for military service members and their families.

"Many Americans are struggling with mental health issues, suffering from mental illness or simply falling short of finding emotional health," said A. Kathryn Power, M.Ed., and Director of the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). "We need to encourage individuals to understand their emotional lives and if necessary seek effective, evidence-based solutions. This project will be a valuable resource for that information."

About the Project Partners:

Vulcan Productions is the independent film production company founded by investor and philanthropist Paul G. Allen in 1997. Vulcan Productions devotes itself exclusively to producing independent films of unique vision and artistic quality. Through its collaborative partnerships with established and emerging filmmakers, Vulcan Productions explores creative opportunities that result in engaging and inspirational storytelling.

WGBH/NOVA Science Unit WGBH Boston is America's preeminent public broadcasting producer, the source of fully one-third of PBS' prime-time lineup, along with some of public television's best-known lifestyle and children's programs and many public radio favorites. One of its premiere programs, NOVA, is a production of the WGBH/NOVA Science Unit. Now in its 36th year of broadcasting, NOVA is the most popular science series on American television and is seen in more than 100 countries. It is also one of television's most acclaimed series, having won every major television award, most of them many times over. and

Kunhardt McGee Productions (formally Kunhardt Productions) was founded in 1987 by Peter W. Kunhardt, a veteran of ABC News and the winner of three national Emmy Awards. Dyllan McGee, Kunhardt's longtime colleague, became a partner in the company in 2008. The company specializes in multi-platform documentary programming crafted to bring cutting-edge scholarship to popular audiences.

Method is a brand experience agency that helps organizations and businesses harness the competitive power of design. With deep expertise in research, strategy, design and technology, Method offers a rigorous, intelligent approach to solving complex brand problems in the physical and digital realms.

Cause & Affect is an innovative agency operating at the nexus of media and social change, with the objective of creating meaningful public engagement on a wide variety of issues. Led by Meredith Blake, the architect of the social action campaign accompanying Al Gore's Academy documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, Cause & Affect brings widespread attention to causes by partnering with influential individuals or organizations that possess considerable resources, visibility and credibility.

Mission Measurement helps nonprofits, foundations, and corporations measure and improve their social impact through strategy and measurement consulting, training and data services. As the result of our work, organizations have been able to improve the effective delivery of their services, increase the visibility of their work, achieve financial sustainability and communicate results to key stakeholders.

Premiering on PBS early 2010

SOURCE Vulcan Productions

SOURCE Vulcan Productions
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