New center to promote social skills, emotion research

Yale’s new Center for Emotional Intelligence will officially open Oct. 1 at 340 Edwards St.
Yale’s new Center for Emotional Intelligence will officially open Oct. 1 at 340 Edwards St. Photo by Kathryn Crandall.

Though the official launch will not take place until Oct. 1, Yale’s new Center for Emotional Intelligence has already hit the ground running.

Located on 340 Edwards St., the center replaces the Health, Emotion and Behavior Lab directed by University President Peter Salovey prior to his move to 43 Hillhouse Ave. The center will continue research on emotional intelligence while also promoting the importance of emotional intelligence in schools and the workplace, associate director Robin Stern said.

Directors of the center named several reasons that the development of social and emotional skills has become increasingly critical in recent years.

Deputy director Susan Rivers said the increased need for emotional intelligence education in schools partly stems from the pressure on districts to perform well on standardized tests.

“There’s a growing trend in school systems to encourage teaching to the test, which doesn’t leave enough time in the day for children to interact socially and for teachers to emphasize the development of social and emotional skills,” Rivers said.

She added that the rise in online communication has reduced face-to-face interactions, giving children fewer opportunities to practice appropriate social behavior.

Increasing reports of bullying, especially cyberbullying, further highlight the importance of educating kids on emotional intelligence, center director Marc Brackett said. Experts in education have realized that teaching empathy and tolerance is more effective than a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to counteracting bullying in schools, he added.

In addition, Brackett said the 21st century demands social competence — being academically gifted is no longer sufficient to be successful in the workplace.

To further its goal of promoting emotional intelligence, the center has already hosted sessions to train educators nationwide in the RULER approach. The acronym — recognizing emotions, understanding the causes and consequences of emotions, labeling the full range of feelings, expressing feelings appropriately and regulating feelings — represents a set of social and emotional skills that Brackett said everyone deserves to learn.

Although emotional intelligence is being pursued at other universities across the country, Stern said the new Yale center is unique because the concept of emotional intelligence originated here when Salovey first published his work in 1990. Brackett developed the RULER approach at Yale from Salovey’s original work in emotional intelligence.

“Yale is the only place where there is a center dedicated to both the science and practice of emotional intelligence in the way we are,” Stern said.

While other approaches to emotional development exist, Bonnie Brown, a senior consultant at the center, said she has seen the effectiveness of the RULER method firsthand through her career in special education.

Perhaps the most important feature of RULER is that it engages adults just as much as children, Brown said. She added that children and teachers alike are stakeholders in creating a positive emotional climate in schools, which is why the center is especially invested in training parents, school administrators and teachers.

Brown said she is confident that RULER successfully “levels the playing field,” because regardless of background or upbringing, all children benefit from developing a core social and emotional skill set.

Stern said she agreed that RULER applies to people of all backgrounds and all ages — even professionals at Yale. Directors at the center are working with human resources in University administration as well as with the Yale School of Medicine and Yale School of Management to infuse the RULER approach in daily work. She added that she is excited by the fact that Yale students and faculty have shown appreciation for the significance of emotional intelligence.

The center is also developing online training materials so parents can implement RULER strategies in the home, and is working with Facebook to reduce cyberbullying, Stern added.

Brackett said the center’s official launch will include an academic conference open to all Yale students and faculty from 2:30–4:30 p.m. on Oct. 1.

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