Cerebrum Summer 2020

A key ingredient in a positive and healthy relationship is the ability to interpret and understand what the other person is feeling, and to identify, express, and manage one’s own emotions.

E MOTIONS MATTER. They influence how we learn, the decisions we make, the relationships we build and maintain, our everyday performance, and the ways in which we contribute to our world. Inextricably tied to our cognitive faculties and manifested in each of our interactions with ourselves and others, emotions underscore what we feel, how and what we think, and how we behave. Affective science recognizes two related but distinct aspects within the rich complexity of emotional experience: core affect and emotion. Core affect is the internal perception and evaluation of experiences as positive or negative—feeling pleasant or unpleasant—and the effect on energy— feeling lethargic or energized. Emotion is the subjective response to specific situations, manifested as happiness,

Then they were asked to complete three tasks: recall lists of words, write entries in a diary, and remember childhood experiences. Subjects who were made to feel happy recalled more positive memories and words and remembered more pleasant events for their diaries. Likewise, the participants who were made to feel sad recalled more unpleasant memories, words, and events. The third area of scientific inquiry was a search for “new” intelligences to include a broad array of cognitive abilities rather than a single mental ability, as expressed with IQ. Howard Gardner, a professor from Harvard University, proposed a theory of multiple intelligences that urged educators to place a greater emphasis on abilities beyond the verbal and mathematical, such as intrapersonal and interpersonal skills. Other researchers, including Robert Sternberg, proposed a theory of “successful intelligence” and pushed psychologists to consider creative and practical abilities. Such research has had a positive impact: Social and behavioral outcomes are now recognized alongside academic development as a primary goal of education in the U.S., as evidenced in the Every Student Succeeds Act [ESSA], 2015. Yet questions still permeate some education circles around the value of so-called “soft skills,” the time schools should spend teaching students about them, and

others, and to regulate our emotions in the service of our thoughts or actions. Despite the leading role emotions play in our life, as a subject of science they’ve been treated as an understudy; we have a long history of denying their importance in the human condition. Emotions are sometimes stereotyped as a sign of weakness and encouraged to be bottled up and checked at the door of our homes, classrooms, sports arenas, and workplaces. Further, difficulty reaching agreement on reliable, valid, and approachable metrics to meaningfully measure emotions undermine our taking them seriously as a skillset worthy of attention, research, and instruction. The Evolution of a Field The identification of emotional intelligence (EI) occurred late when compared to other kinds of intelligence. It wasn’t until 1990 that psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer introduced the first formal theory of EI , defined as “the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.” EI was a synthesis of three burgeoning areas of research, which demonstrated that emotions, when used intelligently, supported reasoning

sadness, rage, pride, relief, etc. Emotions are relatively short-

term affective responses, evoked by something real or imagined in our environment, that shift our thoughts, physiology, expressions, and behaviors. Although often used interchangeably, we recognize the difference and relationship between emotions, moods, and feelings. Moods are generally taken to mean “less intense emotions,” and though they may originate in the emotional response to a situation, moods are more sustained and may or may not have an easily identifiable cause. Feelings are our private experience of emotions. Therefore, our emotions act as signals that guide our response to the world, inform our moods and underlie our feelings, while continuously adapting to meet the changing demands of life as we age. Lastly, the skills we access to deal with emotional experiences are aspects of intelligence—such as the ability to recognize emotion in oneself and

and complex problem-solving. The first area of research was

the rediscovery of Charles Darwin’s functional view of emotion —the idea that emotions are valuable sources of information that both energize behavior and ensure survival. Next was recognition that emotions and moods play essential roles in cognition, judgment, and behavior. For example, cognitive psychologist Gordon Bower at Stanford University demonstrated the link between emotions and thought with the use of hypnosis. First, subjects were made to feel either happy or sad.

whose job it is to “teach” them. The reality is: what is valued in

our society gets taught. We want our children to be competitive in the global economy. But despite the longstanding evidence of the important role emotions play in being successful personally and professionally, we have been slow to warm to the idea that they represent a skillset that should be integrated into

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