Since its official opening on Oct. 1, the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence has been in a constant flurry of activity.
The Center — a research institution located atop Science Hill that conducts studies on the emotional and social skills of children and adults — grew out of the former Health, Emotion and Behavior Laboratory, which was founded by University President Peter Salovey in 1986. After its relaunch this fall, the Center has looked toward a series of renewed projects such as an education program that focuses high school students on emotional and social reflection and a research partnership with Facebook.
Susan Rivers, deputy director of the Center, said the rebranding of the HEB Lab as the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence has lent the institution a clearer and more precise mission.
“We will be more focused in our research portfolio,” Rivers said. “Emotions are central to our mission and part of everything that we do.”
According to Nicole Elbertson, research associate and project manager at the Center, the scope of the former HEB Lab’s research initially spanned across several different scientific fields, but it eventually narrowed down to emotional intelligence.
The Center’s main project since its opening has been the expansion of RULER, a program that teaches students to value emotional and social development alongside academic endeavors. According to Elbertson, the program uses four “Anchors of Emotional Intelligence” — which include a document that outlines how community members want to feel and how they can achieve these feelings, a graph that plots pleasure against energy to help students label their emotions, a series of questions that can be used to resolve interpersonal conflict by inspiring empathy, and an emotional technique that helps individuals to reflect on how best to channel their “most ideal self.”
Elbertson’s most recent endeavor involves bringing RULER — which was previously only used in middle school and preschools — to high schools. She described the project as a year-long “identity-forming class,” in which high school seniors are taught basic emotional and social values, alongside the management of personal well-being and the achievement of a mind-body connection. The initiative is now in its second year at The Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, Penn., and is also looking to expand to other schools and cities.
The program has been met with mixed responses from participants, Elbertson said, with some students calling it “life-changing” and others — mostly males — demonstrating more resistance to speaking about their emotions.
“Ideally, we’d like to have something infused at every grade level,” she said, adding that the importance of emotional development is not restricted to any one grade of students. She also said that high school administrators have used the program as a “new language” through which to communicate with students.
Aside from the RULER program, the Center is also partnering with Facebook to improve the “reporting flow” of the social media site, said Zorana Ivcevic Pringle, associate research scientist at the Center, who co-leads the project along with Center Director Marc Brackett and Associate Director Robin Stern. The project aims to make adolescent Facebook users more comfortable reporting unwanted or inappropriate activity on the site by implementing more socially appropriate language into the interface.
Overall, the Center aims to conduct research that relates to the development of emotional intelligence in individuals of all ages.
“We know that just the act of labeling your emotional experiences can help you manage [them],” Ivcevic Pringle said.
The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence also partners with the U.S. Department of Defense and the Born This Way Foundation, which was founded by Lady Gaga and her mother.