Nonverbal Behavior Pioneer

Paul Ekman

(Photo Credit: Davis Freeman)

Dr. Paul Ekman's seminal research into universal versus culture-specific expression and gesture in the mid 1960's was nothing short of revolutionary. The prevailing consensus at the time - particularly within influential anthropological circles e.g. through the work of Margaret Mead - was that facial expressions were culture specific.

The opposing - but at the time largely dismissed - universal argument was that there is an innate biological component to facial expressions - a view most famously espoused by Charles Darwin during his treatise on the expression of the emotions in the 1870's.

Expression of the emotions

In 1968 Ekman set out to settle the debate whether facial behaviors associated with emotion are universal or culture specific. In a series of groundbreaking research publications co-authored with Wallace Friesen he provided strong evidence in support of the hypothesis that the association between certain facial muscular expressions and discrete emotions is universal.

Ekman's research based on film footage taken of people from an isolated area of New Guinea was particularly compelling; as Ekman notes "These people have not been contaminated by the media or by contact with the outside world...They had never seen a photograph...There were, of course, no mirrors, so they had never seen their own faces...But I never saw an expression I hadn't seen before. There was nothing new. And whenever I could look [in the films] at what happened next [after the facial expression], my interpretation of the expression fit the social context."

In a body of work spanning over 40 years, Paul Ekman has not only redefined our understanding of the expression and physiology of emotion, but he has also established himself as a foremost authority on interpersonal deception. The American Psychological Association named Ekman as one of the 100 most influential psychologists of the 20th century and he was selected by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of 2009.

His role as a scientific consultant on the The TV series Lie to Me and his collaboration with the Dalai Lama on emotional awareness is testament to Dr. Paul Ekman's enduring influence.

Exclusive Interview

We are extremely honored to present our exclusive interview with nonverbal behavior pioneer Dr. Paul Ekman. In this fascinating interview Dr. Ekman discusses his conversations with the Dalai Lama on emotional experience; his revolutionary research, the latest advancements in the field of emotional recognition and he talks openly about his personal and professional involvement with the TV show ‘Lie To Me’.

Listening & Downloading

To listen to the interview with Dr. Paul Ekman simply click on the link below. If you would like to download the interview, right click on the link and choose "Save link as..." (wording may differ depending which Internet browser you use). Then select where you want to save the file on your hard drive. Once you have saved the file, locate where you saved it, and double click to open.

Interview With Dr. Paul Ekman

Learn More

Paul Ekman discussing his scientific work on the human face.

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