Mark Holder

Associate Professor

Office: ART 320
Phone: 250.807.8728

Research Summary

Positive psychology and the science of happiness; research has four main thrusts: predictors (e.g., temperament, spirituality, and social) of happiness in children; strategies and programs to promote well-being; biological basis of happiness; and developing new measures of happiness.

Courses & Teaching

Introductory psychology; behavioral neuroscience; positive psychology.


Dr. Holder earned his PhD at the University of California at Berkeley. He then completed his postdoctoral training at the Brain Research Institute at UCLA where he conducted brain transplants to reverse impairments caused by brain injuries. As a professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland, he studied how natural chemicals, 200 times the strength of heroin, were released when people ate chocolate chip cookies. During this time he worked as a Biological Consultant with the NutraSweet Company to determine whether aspartame is safe for pregnant mothers and their offspring. He also spent a research sabbatical at the University of Hawaii swimming with dolphins in studies of their language and creativity.

Dr. Holder is now an Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, where he studies the science of happiness. He leads a research team that is identifying factors (e.g. spirituality and personality) that contribute to happiness in vulnerable populations including children, people living in challenging regions of the world (e.g. Zambia and Northern India), and people with personality disorder (e.g. psychopathy), emotional processing disorders (e.g. alexithymia) and acquired brain injury. His team is also investigating strategies to enhance happiness in adults through experiences with nature and changing their implicit theories of well-being.

Dr. Holder is an award winning teacher and researcher. He regularly appears on television and radio, and his research is featured in international magazines and newspapers. He has an active speaking career that has taken him around the world. He is also the Chief Research Officer at Perked! which is developing a mobile app to assess and promote well-being using evidence-based practices. Perked! can also provide ongoing assessments for companies interested in measuring their employees’ well-being, the success of employee programs, and their corporate culture.

If you are interested in having Dr. Holder speak to your group, please contact him directly.


PhD, University of California, Berkeley

Research Interests & Projects

Dr. Holder frequently gives talks, workshops and keynotes on happiness, for both adults and children. In addition to presentations on the science of happiness (see outlines of a possible keynote and workshop below), Dr. Holder gives different talks on “The Amazing Brain” (see outlines of two talks below).

If you are interested in having Dr. Holder speak to your group, please email him.

Example of a Keynote (70 minutes)
The Science of Happiness: Medicine and psychology have traditionally focused on dysfunction and illness (i.e., what is wrong with you and how do we fix it). Recently, science has placed an increased emphasis on positive well-being (i.e., what is right with you and how do we promote it). Join Dr. Mark Holder as he outlines his research, and the research of his colleagues, on what contributes to long-term happiness. Learn how happiness is associated with improvements in your immune functioning, social relationships, sleep, cognitive flexibility, longevity, tolerance, creativity, and career. Share a laugh while learning scientifically proven methods to increase your happiness and the happiness of your friends, colleagues, students and family.

Workshop (3 hours with a break midway)
Happiness and Choices: Science has placed a new focus on positive well-being including happiness. Dr. Mark Holder leads a research team investigating the science of positive psychology. With humor and knowledge, he will outline recent research findings related to human flourishing, spirituality, positive self-concept and life satisfaction. You will learn about your own optimism and positive bias, and how to increase them. You will learn how to identify your personal strengths and to use them to increase your happiness. This presentation is a combination of a talk to outline evidence-based practice to increase happiness, and a workshop to engage in activities to promote your well-being. These activities can be easily adapted for the classroom.

Talk (50 minutes)
The Amazing Brain: Placebo Effects: Fake pills and fake medical procedures can have a dramatic effect on your physical health and immune functioning. Dr. Mark Holder will describe research findings on placebo pills and procedures. There are surprises in store for you. For example, learn how in one case sham heart surgery was more effective than the real surgery. Additionally, like real drugs, placebo pills can have serious side effects and can result in addiction.

Talk (50 minutes)
The Amazing Brain: Seeing Music and Hearing Colors: Have you ever been hungry for something pointy? Does your favourite music feel like going up in an elevator? Welcome to the world of synaesthesia where some people process stimuli from one sensory modality (e.g., vision) in multiple modalities (e.g., sound and taste). Listen to Dr. Mark Holder describe case studies of people who see music and taste letters. Learn how we all may have a little synaesthesia in us.

Selected Publications & Presentations

Google Scholar

Professional Services/Affiliations/Committees

Chief Research Officer, Perked!
Contributor, Psychology Today



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