Cerebrum Summer 2020

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.

the limbic system. Emotional intelligence is acquired through informal life experiences (e.g., observing how parents, peers, teachers, and television characters talk about and manage emotions) and formal instruction (e.g., receiving direct instruction to build emotion vocabulary and learn helpful emotion regulation strategies). Over the last two decades, our team at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence created a schoolwide,

years alongside parents, peers, and teachers. Further, as language skills develop, our capacity to experience emotions more granularly increases, as does our ability to differentiate our individual interpretations from others in how we make meaning of what is happening in the world around us. Our brains are experience-expectant, constantly shaped by and shaping who we are through interactions with the world and those within it. From our earliest moments, we write the code for how we think and act with the environmental resources available to us, which include everything from the nutrition we receive to nourish our brains, to the instruction we receive to educate our minds, to the relationships we form with our families and peers. Ongoing research finds that, along with white matter, intense growth in the cortical and subcortical areas of the brain are experience-dependent and that even subtle emotional regulatory interactions can permanently alter young children’s brain activity levels. This process may play a critical role in the establishment and maintenance of

the curriculum, rather than a frill taking time away from more critical areas of instruction. As a society, we’re invested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education, and our preschoolers are learning Mandarin, while our primary school students are learning how to code. Meanwhile, science and technology companies, who make up an overwhelming proportion of the global economy, report that the skills they are looking for in new employees are those grounded in EI. These include emotion management, perspective-taking, creative problem-solving, and the ability to have difficult conversations, both give and receive feedback, and lead and inspire teams. A recent study by McKinsey and Microsoft found that top managers believe that just 30 to 40 percent of new hires have enough of these skills. Developing Emotional Intelligence The development of our EI begins in infancy, through interactions with caregivers, and continues as children are socialized across their school

evidence-based approach for developing EI, which we named “RULER.” RULER is designed to

integrate the teaching and learning of emotion skills into the fabric of schools across the process of development, and to improve interactions between and among school leaders, teachers, students, and families. Evidence is accumulating for RULER’s positive impact on academic performance (e.g., grades), social and emotional skills development (e.g., emotion regulation and social competence), well-being, classroom climate (e.g., relationships between and among teachers and

The Limbic System Regions of the brain most relevant to emotional intelligence

Basal ganglia Control of movements, learning, habit, cognition, and emotion

Hypothalamus Controls body temperature, hunger, fatigue, sleep

Thalamus Regulation of sleep, consciousness, and alertness

Amygdala Memory, decision-making, and emotional responses

Hippocampus Memory, navigation


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