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Paul Ekman

Paul Ekman

Paul Ekman is an American Psychologist who was born on February 15, 1934 in Washington DC, however, he grew up in New Jersey, Washington, Oregon and California. He is regarded as one of the best psychologists of  20th century. He was the first person to study human emotions and how it could be related to facial expressions.

Ekman’s research was based on how human traits, emotions and deception developed over time through empirical research. He negated the belief of anthropologists such as Margaret Mead who implied that facial expressions are determined culturally but instead remained forthright on the fact that it is developed universally and is biological in origin. These included expressions such as disgust, fear, anger, shame, surprise, sadness and happiness. Although, there are not much findings on contempt but it can be said that this emotion is universally recognized.

In 1957, his first publication contained all the findings for developing methods for measuring nonverbal behavior. His work gained inspiration from renowned psychologist, Silvan Tomkins. He also used oral signs of lying in his profession. In the Monica Lewinsky scandal, he claimed that Bill Clinton was lying because he used distancing language. Paul Ekman didn’t manage to graduate from high school and at the age of 15, he got admission in the undergraduate program at the University of Chicago. In 1954, he studied at New York University and got his BA. Moreover, in 1958 at the Adelphi University, he received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology which led him to doing a one year internship at the Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute. His classmates at the University of Chicago included Susan Sontag, Mike Nichols and Elaine May. In 1971, he received a Research Scientist Award from the National Institute of Mental Health which later got renewed in 1976, 1981, 1987, 1991 and 1997.

National Institute of Mental Health supported Paul Ekman’s research through fellowships, grants and awards for over forty years. In 1985, being encouraged by his college friend and teacher Silvan Tomkins, he wrote a very famous book called Telling lies. Ekman teamed up with John Cleese for the BBC documentary series The Human face in 2001. He retired from the post of professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California in 2004. From there onwards, he worked at the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute. He currently serves on the Editorial board of Greater Good magazine which encompasses scientific research in compassion, altruism and peaceful human relationships. On the other hand, he is also working with Computer Vision researcher Dimitris Metaxas on a visual lie detector. In the May 11, 2009 edition of Time magazine, he was named one of the top 100 most influential people.

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