The science behind the show
The award-winning television series Lie to Me was inspired by Dr. Ekman and his research. Dr. Ekman served as Scientific Advisor to the show, analyzing and critiquing each episode’s script as well as personally teaching the cast and crew about the science of deception detection.
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Dr. Ekman’s Episode Critiques
Dr. Ekman served a critical role in the development of ‘Lie to Me’, critiquing each episode for scientific validity. Join him as he differentiates hard science from pure entertainment. Tap on each photo to read Dr. Ekman’s critique.
Dr. Ekman and ‘Lie to Me’
Many of the episodes of ‘Lie to Me’ feature references from Dr. Ekman’s own experiences. The pilot episode shows the fictional character, Dr. Cal Lightman, lecturing to several FBI agents in a lecture hall. Dr. Ekman lectured to the FBI in a variety of settings, including lecture halls, throughout his career. Two FBI agents listening to Lightman’s lecture discuss the fact that Cal is reported to have traveled to the African jungle to study facial expressions in a primitive tribe. This reference is based on Dr. Ekman’s travels throughout the world to determine whether facial expressions are universal or culturally determined. Lightman shows the FBI agents a tape of his interview with a suspect accused of attempting to firebomb a church. Lightman focuses the agents’ attention on close-ups of the suspect’s face that reveal micro expressions of emotions the suspect is trying to conceal at different points in the interview – e.g., happy at one point, scornful at another point. One of the agents asks if micro expressions vary depending on the person, and Lightman responds by juxtaposing the still of the suspect’s micro expression of scorn with a close-up of the face of Kato Kaelin exhibiting the same micro expression of scorn. This portion of the pilot episode was based on Dr. Ekman’s scientific findings that micro expressions are universal.
The personal aspects of Lightman’s character, however, are not based on Dr. Ekman. For instance, Cal Lightman is young, divorced, British, and has a strained relationship with his one child, whereas Dr. Ekman has been happily married for over thirty years, and has a good relationship with his two children. Also, he’s American.
More info about Paul Ekman Group
Fun facts about Paul Ekman Group and the Lightman Group.
Paul Ekman Group
We provide online emotional skills-building trainings, such as the Ekman Library, offer workshops, and support researchers.
In ‘Lie to Me’, Cal Lightman and the Lightman Group take on individual cases and call out public figures for deception.
Paul Ekman Group works closely with law enforcement and national security agencies, including clients such as the CIA, FBI, and Scotland Yard. We consult with other organizations, too, such as Pixar, Procter & Gamble, Kaiser Hospitals, and Google. Learn more.
The Lightman Group works closely with the FBI, the police, and other government agencies. Law enforcement officers and agents are often visiting the office and giving Cal a hard time.
Dr. Ekman has gone through difficult experiences, as most of us have. His relationship with the Dalai Lama deeply affected his thinking and his aspirations.
Cal Lightman had some dark secrets, and a mercurial temper.
Dr. Paul Ekman is the author of 15 books, and over 170 journal articles and book chapters. Writing is his favorite activity, and he is engaged in frequent blogging.
The Lightman Group was not in the business of authoring books or creating products.