2.1 Becoming an Emotion Scientist
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1. Ready

What are emotions?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an emotion is “a conscious mental reaction subjectively experienced as a strong feeling [that is] usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioural changes in the body”. An emotion is a state of feeling. It is widely recognized that emotions have different components, which each serve a specific purpose. Consider for a moment that you encounter a shark on your morning swim in the ocean and intense fear washes over you. In this scenario, the evaluative component of fear is clear: Fear is what leads to appraising the shark as dangerous. But
fear also has Scarantino, A., & de Sousa, R. (2018). Emotion: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2018 Edition). Zalta, E. (ed.).
“a physiological component (ex. increased heart rate and blood pressure), a phenomenological component (ex. an unpleasant feeling), an expressive component (ex. upper eyelids raised, jaw dropped open, lips stretched horizontally), a behavioural component (ex. a tendency to flee) and a mental component (ex. focusing attention)” (Scarantino & de Sousa, 2018). Different theories of emotions have arisen based on differential emphasis and value on the various components of emotion. However, the
fear also has Scarantino, A., & de Sousa, R. (2018). Emotion: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2018 Edition). Zalta, E. (ed.).
as well as the theory which is most representative of common sense, is that which takes the way emotions feel to be their most essential characteristic (i.e. the feeling tradition) (Scarantino & de Sousa, 2018). For this reason, our discussion of emotions will mainly revolve around answering the question, “How are you feeling?”.

What is emotional intelligence?

Peter Salovey and John Mayer published the
first article Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. (1990). Emotional Intelligence. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 9(3), 185-211.
on emotional intelligence in 1990, defining emotional intelligence as:

“the ability to perceive accurately, appraise, and express emotion; the ability to access and/or generate feeling when they facilitate thought; the ability to understand emotion and emotional knowledge; and the ability to regulate emotions to promote emotional and intellectual growth”.

What does it mean to become an emotion scientist?

In his book, “Permission to Feel”,
Dr. Marc Brackett Brackett, M. (2019). Permission to Feel. Celadon Books.
makes the distinction between being an emotion judge and an emotion scientist. We tend to make snapshot judgements about emotions with very little information or understanding of what we or other people are experiencing. These judgements are made based on facial expressions, body language, behaviour and tone of voice. However, these judgements aren’t always accurate and can lead to destructive consequences. Being an emotion scientist is about becoming more precise. In an interview with
Jill Suttie from the Greater Good Science Center Suttie, J. (2019, September 16). How to Become a Scientist of Your Own Emotions. Greater Good Magazine.
, Dr. Marc Brackett explains that “an emotion scientist is someone who asks really good questions to ensure that they understand their feelings, as well as other people’s feelings. The emotion scientist is looking for themes and trying to understand what’s behind people’s behaviour or inability to regulate emotions” (Suttie, 2019). By becoming an emotion scientist, you learn the skills necessary for managing your own emotions and helping others manage theirs.

How do I become an emotion scientist?

Marc Brackett and his team of research scientists at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence amalgamated over twenty years of research in psychology, education, and neuroscience to create a framework for teaching emotional intelligence skills to children, parents, teachers, and business leaders alike.

This framework identifies five of the most important emotional intelligence skills and is summarized by the acronym RULER.

RULER


What are emotions good for?

The accumulation of literature, philosophy, and religious beliefs, which talk about emotions as a kind of internal interference has, and continues to, contribute to humans' long-standing history of disregarding emotions. Think about the last time that someone asked you “How are you feeling?”. Did you actually stop to think about how you were feeling and give a genuine answer, or did you respond with the standard “good” or “fine” without letting the question settle into your mind, knowing that the other person didn’t really care about the truth? Our “disrespect” for emotions is also reflected in the continued distinction between intellectual intelligence (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ), with the latter receiving far less attention. In reality
emotions Brackett, M. (2019). Permission to Feel. Celadon Books.
are a source of information that “give purpose, priority, and focus to our thinking”. At their highest level, emotions ensure survival. 
Brackett Brackett, M. (2019). Permission to Feel. Celadon Books.
champions five areas of life where emotions matter most:

  1. Attention, memory, and learning Emotions dictate where you focus your attention and whether that attention is focused narrowly or broadly. Emotions also direct learning. For example, guilt can act as a moral compass and anger can act as a motivator.
  2. Decision making Emotions largely determine your actions. Feelings have the potential to influence behaviour without conscious knowledge because they tend to linger far past the moment that triggers them.
  3. Relationships Relationships are one of the most important aspects of our lives. Your ability to recognize, understand, express, and regulate your own, as well as other’s emotions, largely determines the strength of your connections.
  4. Health The brain releases hormones, neurotransmitters and other chemicals that give rise to emotions but also affect your physical health (ex. immune system functioning, cardiovascular health, physiological stress) and mental health (ex. depression, anxiety).
  5. Creativity Neil deGrasse Tyson, an American astrophysicist, neatly alluded to the fact that “rational thoughts never drive people’s creativity the way emotions do”. 
    Emotions drive creativity Brackett, M. (2019). Permission to Feel. Celadon Books.
    and humans “need to feel creative in order to feel alive, engaged, and fully involved in life”.

Why is Emotional Intelligence Important?

Studies Dodge, K., Bierman, K., Coie, J., Greenberg, M., Lochman, J., Mcmahon, R., Pinderhughes, E., & for the Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group. (2015). Impact of Early Intervention on Psychopathology, Crime, and Well-Being at Age 25. American Journal of Psychiatry, 172(1), 59–70.
have found that social-emotional learning leads to 10% fewer psychological, behavioural, and substance abuse problems up to 18 years after participating in the program. Students with
higher emotional intelligence Brackett, M. (2013, October 12). Emotional Intelligence: From Theory to Everyday Practice [Speaker]. Presidential Inauguration Symposia, Yale University.
have less anxiety and depression; are less likely to abuse drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes; are less likely to bully others; have greater leadership skills; are more attentive and less hyperactive in school; and perform better academically. Furthermore, in classrooms where teachers demonstrate
higher emotional intelligence, Brackett, M. (2013, October 12). Emotional Intelligence: From Theory to Everyday Practice [Speaker]. Presidential Inauguration Symposia, Yale University.
students are more engaged in learning; have better quality relationships with their teachers; demonstrate increased prosocial behaviour; and perform better academically. Teachers with more social-emotional intelligence and learning experiences, also
personally benefit, Floman, J. (2018). The Effects of Mindfulness and Kindness Meditation on Teacher Emotional Abilities, Compassion, and Prosocial Behavior [Thesis]. The University of British Columbia.
as suggested by less burnout, higher job satisfaction, and, in general, increased happiness. The specific
effectiveness of RULER Rivers, S., Brackett, M., Reyes, M., Elbertson, N., & Salovey, P. (2013). Improving the Social and Emotional Climate of Classrooms: A Clustered Randomized Controlled Trial Testing the RULER Approach. Prevention Science, 14(1), 77–87.
has also been widely studied, showing that only one year of classroom participation in the RULER program can lead to a 12% increase in the emotional climate of the class.


Where can I learn more?

Greater Good Magazine – How to Become a Scientist of Your Own Emotions

Yale University – Emotional Intelligence: From Theory to Everyday Practice (1-hour lecture)

Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence

RULER

What will students learn?

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to…

  • Identify ideas, beliefs, and misconceptions that get in the way of feeling emotions
  • Understand and clearly describe the functions of emotions and their importance in everyday life
  • Give themselves and others the permission to feel
  • Build awareness of their own and other’s feelings
  • Contribute to the development of an Emotional Intelligence Charter and commit to its execution


References

Brackett, M. (2013, October 12). Emotional Intelligence: From Theory to Everyday Practice [Speaker]. Presidential Inauguration Symposia, Yale University.

Brackett, M. (2019). Permission to Feel. Celadon Books.

Dodge, K., Bierman, K., Coie, J., Greenberg, M., Lochman, J., Mcmahon, R., Pinderhughes, E., & for the Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group. (2015). Impact of Early Intervention on Psychopathology, Crime, and Well-Being at Age 25. American Journal of Psychiatry, 172(1), 59 70. undefined

Floman, J. (2018). The Effects of Mindfulness and Kindness Meditation on Teacher Emotional Abilities, Compassion, and Prosocial Behavior [Thesis]. The University of British Columbia.

Rivers, S., Brackett, M., Reyes, M., Elbertson, N., & Salovey, P. (2013). Improving the Social and Emotional Climate of Classrooms: A Clustered Randomized Controlled Trial Testing the RULER Approach. Prevention Science, 14(1), 77–87. undefined

Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. (1990). Emotional Intelligence. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 9(3), 185-211. undefined

Scarantino, A., & de Sousa, R. (2018). Emotion: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2018 Edition). Zalta, E. (ed.). undefined

Suttie, J. (2019, September 16). How to Become a Scientist of Your Own Emotions. Greater Good Magazine.

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RULER Acronym
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