Dr. Paul Ekman

About Paul Ekman

Dr. Ekman's Work

A timeline of achievements


The Research Begins

Paul Ekman begins his research on facial expression and body movements, including hand gestures.

Paul Ekman gestures emblematic slips


Paul becomes Dr. Ekman

Dr. Ekman receives his Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Adelphi University.

Paul Ekman gets PhD


Non-Verbal Behavior

Dr. Ekman receives a grant to examine cross-cultural studies of non-verbal behavior. This is what led to Ekman's most famous studies in facial expression and emotion.


Discovery of Micro Expressions

Dr. Ekman worked with clinical cases in which patients lied about their emotional state. He studied patients who claimed they were not depressed and later committed suicide. Upon examining films of the patients in slow motion, Dr. Ekman and Dr. Friesen spotted micro facial expressions, which revealed strong negative feelings the patient was trying to hide.

Paul Ekman discovers micro expressions


Universal Facial Expressions

Dr. Ekman travels to Papua New Guinea to study the nonverbal behavior of the Fore people. He chose these people as they were an isolated, Stone Age culture located in the South East Highlands. Ekman's research provided the strongest evidence to date that facial expressions are universal.



UCSF Professor and Prolific Writer

From 1971-2004 Dr. Ekman worked as a professor at University of California San Francisco and continued to publish influential and best-selling books and articles about facial expressions, emotions, and deception.

Paul Ekman UCSF Professor


Coding the Face

Dr. Ekman's findings inspired the development of the Facial Action Coding System. FACS was the first and only comprehensive tool for objectively measuring facial movement. Ekman developed this tool along with W. Friesen in 1978 and later revised it in 2003 with J. Hagar as a third author.



Deception Detection

In response to Dr. Ekman's book, Telling Lies, national and regional law enforcement request his training. Ekman developed in-person workshops for TSA, the CIA, the FBI, and online training tools for the public.



Cultivating Emotional Balance

At the request of the Dalai Lama, Dr. Paul Ekman, Dr. Alan Wallace, Dr. Mark Greenberg, and Dr. Richard Davidson created a secular training program to help people manage destructive emotions and cultivate a wholesome way of being. This training, called Cultivating Emotional Balance, is taught by Dr. Eve Ekman.

Paul Ekman Cultivating Emotional Balance


Paul Ekman Group

After retiring from his work as a professor, Ekman's next goal was to translate his research into helpful resources for the general public. To do so, he formed the Paul Ekman Group (PEG) to provide online training tools and in-person workshops.

Paul Ekman Group Micro Expressions Training


Emotions Revealed, 2nd Ed.

In this revised printing of Emotions Revealed, Dr. Ekman explains the roots of our emotions―anger, fear, disgust, sadness, and happiness―and shows how they cascade across our faces, providing clear signals to those who can identify the clues. In Emotions Revealed, Ekman distills decades of research into a practical, mind-opening, and life-changing guide to reading the emotions of those around us

Paul Ekman Emotions Revealed


Lie to Me

Dr. Ekman and his research inspired the award-winning television series Lie to Me. Dr. Ekman also served as a scientific advisor to the show. He analyzed and critiqued each episode's script and taught the cast and crew about the science of deception detection. Discover the science behind Lie to Me.

Paul Ekman Lie to Me


Developing Global Compassion

Over the last two decades, Dr. Paul Ekman has had the opportunity to spend close to 50 hours in one-on-one conversations with the Dalai Lama. During their meeting in New Delhi, India, of January 2012, they spent another six hours discussing compassion; this exchange was recorded and segmented into webisodes for our series called Developing Global Compassion.


Inside Out

Dr. Ekman served as a scientific advisor on the widely popular movie Inside Out which focuses on emotions and family dynamics. This wondrous, funny, beautiful, and groundbreaking film provides a unique view into how parents and children relate. Since emotions can be a difficult subject to talk about, Dr. Ekman created this Parents' Guide to promote conversations between parents and kids.

 Paul Ekman Inside Out movie


Atlas of Emotions

The Dalai Lama imagined "a map of our emotions to develop a calm mind." He asked his longtime friend and renowned emotion scientist Dr. Paul Ekman to realize his idea. Ekman took on the creation of the Atlas alongside his daughter, Dr. Eve Ekman, a second-generation emotion researcher and trainer. The Atlas of Emotions represents what researchers have learned from the psychological study of emotion.

Paul Ekman Atlas of Emotions Dalai Lama


Reflecting on Legacy and Life

Dr. Ekman continues to write on a range of topics on everything from his early studies, the experience of growing old, global compassion, current events, as well as personal reflection. You can read about some of the highlights of his discoveries and follow along by signing up for our newsletter.

Paul Ekman current photo

Frequently Asked Questions

What did Paul Ekman discover?

Paul Ekman discovered that some facial expressions of emotion are universal while many of the apparent differences in facial expressions across cultures were due to context. He also co-discovered micro facial expressions.

What is Paul Ekman's theory?

Paul Ekman theorized that some basic human emotions (happiness/enjoyment, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, disgust and contempt) are innate and shared by everyone, and that they are accompanied across cultures by universal facial expressions.