Is there such a thing as too young for SEL?

Q: Is there a danger of teaching social and emotional issues to young children aged 4 to 7? I am wondering if they are developed enough to understand and isn’t there a danger of socializing impressionable minds and how do you teach when there are so many cultures in each class?

A: No danger, if done well – but great benefits. The best programs for young children in social and emotional learning, or SEL, are designed by child development specialists who know what is appropriate for each age.  So during the 4-to-7 years, for instance, learning to delay gratification and not give in to every impulse (like hitting when you’re angry) is an essential lesson, particularly because the brain’s circuitry for managing impulse is going through a growth spurt just about then.»

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Emotional response levels: low vs. high

Q: If psychopaths are people who can’t experience emotion or have low levels of emotional response, are there people with inappropriately high levels of emotional response?

A: One place way psychology categorizes people who have inappropriately high levels of emotional response is in terms of the “affective disorders,” like depression and anxiety. Both diagnoses refer to people who have distressing emotions too strong, too long-lasting, and too out-of-place. From the EI perspective, these problems are with emotional self-regulation.  While psychiatry tends to treat these too-high emotional response conditions with drugs, an alternative approach is to teach people to enhance their emotional self-management skills themselves, without medication.»

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EI & education: where to begin?

Q: After 20+ years in public & private education, I had to get out in order to redirect my energies for the last decade of service. My expertise has always been developing holistic education and emotional intelligence while struggling to maintain academic standards. I am now searching to get a certification to allow reentry to system. Any ideas or guidance?

A: The movement in social/emotional learning is flourishing, with more and more schools, both public and private, implementing these programs.  The main clearinghouse for information on this approach to education is the Consortium for Research on Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, »

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EI as a job performance predictor

Q: Is it true that a major problem with the idea of EI is that studies have failed to show that EI predicts job performance above and beyond the “Big five” personality dimensions or beyond  ‘g’, the shorthand for core intelligence?

A: That criticism was made early in the history of EI, but has been weakened by new findings. EI is a young concept – it was proposed first just two decades ago, by Yale psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer, in an obscure psychological journal. I wrote Emotional Intelligence 15 years ago, calling wider attention to the concept. It’s only in the last decade that sound research on EI has accelerated – including good studies on how well EI predicts job performance.»

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Emotional intelligence & the obesity epidemic

Q: I am a Doctoral student working on a dissertation currently titled “A Mixed-Methods Study of the Correlation and Educator Perceptions among a Middle School Student’s Body Mass Index and Academics, Attendance, and Behavior.” While interviewing educators, they expressed their concern about obesity prevention and intervention not only occurring in the schools, but society. Another concern was that most people do not recognize themselves or someone else as being overweight or obese, when in fact they are. I instantly thought about ecological intelligence and wondered how you think society should respond to this epidemic. Any thoughts that you could provide would be greatly appreciated.


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Key EI topics & content for youth programs

Q: I have read a lot about emotional intelligence and now I am designing a program for youth which will help them to explore, understand and manage their emotions positively. What are the key topics and core content that should be addressed in the program?

A: The best research on what should go into an emotional intelligence program for young people can be found at – the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning.  CASEL has organized this research on child development and education into a year-by-year curriculum that details what children need to learn at each age in order to develop the most healthy social and emotional abilities. »

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Emotional intelligence & language acquisition

Q: Can a person who has a high EQ learn a second language easier and faster or not?

A: There is no necessary relationship between emotional intelligence and a cognitive ability like language learning. As I detailed in The Brain And Emotional Intelligence, the neural circuits that govern self-management and relationship skills – the two main parts of EI – are independent of the areas for verbal and other cognitive capabilities.

On the other hand, it may depend on how you are learning the language. The one way in which EI might facilitate language learning is if you go to that culture and learn the language by living there.»

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Silence and the “A-ha!” moment

Q: Your video on the “A-ha!” moment is so obviously true and is certainly within my experience. You mentioned research that supports the proposition that silence is necessary in order for unconscious processing to do its work. Are you able to point me in the direction of this research?

A: As I’ve written in my book The Brain and Emotional Intelligence, new research has given us a fresh window on how to foster creative insights. It’s not exactly silence that fosters the unconscious processing involved in creativity, but rather sustained focus – and that sometimes takes silence. Noise can distract, for sure (but it depends:  I remember learning how to concentrate on getting an article done on deadline when I worked in a busy newsroom at the New York Times). »

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Empathy & genetics

Q: How strong is the genetic neural connection related to empathy? Do you see this as a Darwinian result of more than ten thousand years of organized warfare? Also, if there is a strong genetic component to the neural correlates of empathy, do you see those with an impediment to the experience of empathy as particularly challenged to be able to develop feelings of compassion and loving kindness. Mary Douglas developed a theory based on group and grid where the group dimension had individualism at one end and communitarian sympathies at the other. Do you think this facet of human behavior is related to empathy (or the lack thereof)?


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EI as a predictor of success

Q:  I’ve been told that EI is twice a predictor of academic, business or personal success than IQ or technical skill. Are there any percentages that bear out on this that I can share with fellow colleagues?

A: No one can say with certainty at this point how IQ compares to EI as predictors of various kinds of success. That answer awaits a longitudinal study that follows a large number of people from childhood to adulthood. On the other hand, I have proposed the following relationship between EI, IQ, and success.  First, IQ is by far the best predictor of what job or profession you can attain – you need a higher IQ to handle the complexities of nursing, teaching, accounting, software programming, and dozens of other cognitively demanding jobs. »

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