Susan Rivers, Ph.D.

Susan Rivers, Ph.D.

Co-founder and Research Scientist | Email me

Susan Rivers, Ph.D., is co-founder of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and a visiting research scientist in the Department of Psychology. She received her B.A. from Skidmore College and her M.S., M.Phil., and Ph.D. from Yale. Until recently, she served as founding deputy director for the Center and is now Executive Director at iThrive, a nonprofit that uses digital games to promote social and emotional skill building in adolescents (

Susan is a co-developer of RULER, an approach to teach adults and children the skills of emotional intelligence: recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing, and regulating emotions. With support from federal and foundation grants, her research tests the impacts of RULER. This intervention, designed to teach emotional intelligence to children, relies on first teaching the adults who surround children in schools (i.e., teachers, principals, and school staff) to appreciate the significance of their own and their students emotions, to value the importance of emotional intelligence, to learn and model these skills, and to support, teach, and encourage students to develop their skills. RULER is designed to be part of the everyday routine of teaching and learning; it is infused into the curriculum, not taught as a separate lesson or set of activities. Rigorous evaluations of RULER show significant, positive effects. With RULER training, classroom climates improve, teachers teach more effectively, and students are more engaged in learning and perform better. Tens of thousands of teachers have been trained in RULER, reaching hundreds of thousands of students across the globe.

The Institute for Education Sciences funded Susan and her colleagues to develop Preschool RULER, an adaptation of the approach for our youngest learners in early childhood classrooms. Pilot tests of Preschool RULER are promising, showing that teachers and children enjoy the approach, and children’s skills in emotion labeling and understanding are improving.

Newer work Susan is leading focuses on transforming emotional intelligence training to be delivered in games, virtual worlds, and social robotics. Susan works with collaborators across industries and disciplines to explore how to leverage technologies that are appealing to both children and adults in order to help develop emotional awareness and emotion regulation skills across a variety of contexts including STEM learning in middle school students, literacy and conflict resolution in elementary school, design making and team work in young adults, and health and well-being amongst young adults in the military. One goal of this work is to embed emotional intelligence training into activities that people enjoy doing (i.e., to sneak it in).

The Recognizing Excellence in Learning and Teaching (RELATE) project emerged from work funded by the William T. Grant Foundation and aims to identify effective teaching and learning practices in classrooms that serve children with learning differences. The RELATE rubric, which identifies teaching practices in these settings, is currently being validated in dozens of classrooms.