History

The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence conducts rigorous research on the power of emotions. We create programs that teach emotional intelligence to children and adults so that they have the skills they need to succeed at home, at school, at work, and in their communities.

Our leadership in emotional intelligence started over 25 years ago. In the summer of 1987, our founder, Peter Salovey, was painting the walls of his house with his friend and colleague, John Mayer. The idea of emotional intelligence didn’t exist yet, but the professors were a fortuitous match: Salovey studied emotions and behavior, and Mayer studied the link between emotions and thought.

Over fresh coats of paint, the two friends and collaborators lamented that theories of intelligence had no systematic place for emotions. Using each of their expertise, they articulated a theory that described a new kind of intelligence: the ability to recognize, understand, utilize, and regulate emotions effectively in everyday life. In a pivotal paper, published in 1990, they described this revolutionary idea, which they called “emotional intelligence.” The idea caught on, and Salovey and his laboratory at Yale became the field’s most recognized leaders, pushing the field toward new discoveries and innovations.

Today, that legacy continues at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence under the guidance of our current Director, Marc Brackett, and our Deputy Director, Susan Rivers, one of Salovey’s former graduate students. Salovey now serves as Yale’s 23rd president, and continues to guide the Center in carrying out its mission.

When Brackett joined Salovey as a postdoctoral fellow in 2003, he brought with him new ideas that defined who we are today. Under Brackett’s leadership, we applied our extensive research and expertise to transform schools — from preschools to high schools — and communities.

Today we call the work we do in schools RULER. It is an approach for teaching emotional intelligence in schools that was inspired by Marvin Maurer, a teacher who developed an emotional literacy program in the early 1970s. By partnering with experienced teachers, we crafted a research-based, field-tested approach that could be effectively integrated into the regular school day across the entire school. Rigorous evaluations of RULER have shown that it improves students’ academic performance and social skills, and that it has the power to transform classrooms to be more supportive and student centered.

Applying research to real world practice is a central tenet of our mission. As more schools adopt RULER, we are working to develop similar programs for new communities, including businesses, governments, and families.

We are committed to using the science and practice of emotional intelligence to foster a compassionate society where all individuals have the emotional skills to live happier, healthier, and more productive lives.