Dr. Paul Ekman is a pre-eminent psychologist and a co-discoverer of micro expressions. A Professor Emeritus in Psychology at UCSF, Dr. Ekman is the researcher and author best known for furthering our understanding of nonverbal behavior, encompassing facial expressions and gestures. In 2009, Dr. Ekman was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME Magazine, and in 2014 ranked fifteenth among the most influential psychologists of the 21st century. Ekman has authored more than 14 books, 170 published articles and holds several honorary doctoral degrees.
Dr. Paul Ekman received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Adelphi University (1958) after a one-year internship at the Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute, University of California San Francisco (UCSF). He served two years as First Lieutenant and chief psychologist at Fort Dix, New Jersey, then returned to Langley Porter (UCSF) where he became professor of psychology in the UCSF medical school in 1972, retiring in 2004.
Dr. Ekman’s research started in the late 1950’s, focusing on hand movements and gesture. It wasn’t until 1965 that he became interested in facial expression and emotion after receiving a grant from the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the Department of Defense to examine cross-cultural studies of nonverbal behavior. In 1967 and 1968, Dr. Ekman traveled to Papua New Guinea (photograph at right) to further study nonverbal behavior of the Fore people, an isolated, Stone Age culture located in the South East Highlands. His research provided the strongest evidence to date that Darwin, not Margaret Mead, was correct in claiming facial expressions are universal. Dr. Ekman then developed, with W. Friesen, the first and only comprehensive tool for objectively measuring facial movement – the Facial Action Coding System (FACS), published in 1978, and revised in 2003 with J. Hager as third author. FACS remains the gold standard for identifying any movement the face can make, free of interpretive inferences. Ekman then teamed with Terry Sejnowski to show that neural networks could be used to have computer based facial measurements.
In 1967, Dr. Ekman began to study deception, starting with clinical cases in which the patients falsely claimed not to be depressed in order to commit suicide when not under supervision. In the very first case, when films were examined in slow motion, Ekman and Friesen saw micro facial expressions which revealed strong negative feelings the patient was trying to hide.
When he retired from the University of California in 2004, after more than thirty years as a full professor, Dr. Ekman decided to translate his research findings into resources that could be of help to the general public. He formed the Paul Ekman Group, PEG LLC, and authored his book Emotions Revealed: Understanding Faces and Feelings to Improve Emotional Life. An earlier publication, Telling Lies, had prompted national and regional law enforcement groups to ask for help. Now it came, in the form of workshops and interactive training tools.
Online Training Tools and Workshops
The Micro Expressions Training Tool enables the user, in under an hour, to spot concealed emotions not visible to most people. The Subtle Expressions Training Tool, in a similar time frame, enables the user to spot the first signs of an emergent emotion. In all, Dr. Ekman has personally created seven tools to help everyone enhance understanding of emotions and relationships.
The FOX TV program ‘Lie to Me’, based on Ekman’s research and expertise, brought international publicity to micro expressions and Ekman’s work. He conducted workshops with major security agencies worldwide. When demand grew, he recruited John Pearse, (with more than thirty years’ experience in Scotland Yard and a Ph.D. in psychology) to be PEG’s Vice President for Workshop Training. Pearse provides training and oversight for Paul Ekman International (PEI), a sister company which brings Ekman’s workshops on emotional skills and evaluating truthfulness to government, corporate, and other organizations around the world.
For the last decade Ekman has worked to translate his research into practical applications; shifting focus slightly from earlier products which focused on learning to spot how others feel (and what they may be concealing), PEG has launched Responding Effectively, which focuses on how to respond to others’ emotions. Whether in the workplace, during a negotiation, or at home with one’s family, learning how to respond empathically and constructively in trying situations plays a key role in building beneficial relationships. Available here.
Some of Ekman’s current work emerges from his close relationship with the Dalai Lama. Reflecting more than fifty hours spent in one-on-one conversation with the Dalai Lama, an ebook, Moving Towards Global Compassion, is now available. In addition, Dr. Ekman, with his daughter Dr. Eve Ekman, created the Atlas of Emotions with the support of the Dalai Lama.
Awards and Honors
2015 150th Anniversary Alumni Excellence Award, University of California, San Francisco
2015 Professional Achievement Award, University of Chicago
2014 Ranked 15th Among Most Influential Psychologists of the 21st Century, Archives of Scientific Psychology
2011 Honorary Degree, Lund University, Sweden
2009 Named of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time Magazine
2008 Honorary Degree, University of Geneva, Switzerland
2008 Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Adelphi University
2007 Honorary Degree, University of Fernando Pessoa, Portugal
2001 Named one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century by American Psychological Association, based on publications, citations and awards
1998 William James Fellow Award – given by the American Psychological Society
1994 Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, University of Chicago
1991 Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award – American Psychological Association’s highest award for basic research
1983 Faculty Research Lecturer, University of California, San Francisco – Highest honor awarded by the academic senate for research achievement
Ekman’s work has appeared in US and foreign versions of Time Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, Psychology Today, The New Yorker and many other notable publications. He has appeared on 48 Hours, Dateline, Good Morning America, 20/20, Larry King Live, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and many other programs. He continues to make appearances and attend conferences; please see our Contact Us page to request an interview.