#AskEkman: How do I become a facial expression expert? Learn from the expert

how do i become a facial expression expert

How Do I Become A Facial Expression Expert?

The most popular questions we receive at the Paul Ekman Group are questions relating to which courses and/or universities are best equipped to promote a career in becoming an expert in facial expressions and emotion. Mostly, we get asked, “How do I become a facial expression expert?” and, “How can I become a deception detection expert?” The answer to these questions depend on a variety of factors, such as the level of education you have and/or are seeking to pursue further, the topic(s) that interest you most, how you plan to use your expertise, and your natural strengths and abilities.

To help you on your journey, we’ve put together a short list of recommendations from Dr. Paul Ekman himself:

If you are in high school and are interested in studying human emotions:

Apply to a college or university at which there is an expert on emotion and/or facial expression. The Psychology Department at UC Berkeley has four faculty members who work on emotion, one of whom studies facial expression. The University of Wisconsin has a program on emotion and compassion, with emphasis on neuroscience substrates. If you are really ambitious, here is our list of over 250 major contributors to the field of emotion.

If you are an undergraduate interested in studying/pursuing a career focused on emotions and/or facial expressions:

I assume you are not already at a college where there is an emphasis on emotion research, so you’re going to have to do a lot of reading. If facial expression is your major interest, check the work of Professor Dacher Keltner, UC Berkeley. If it’s the physiology that drives or underlies emotion, try Professor Robert Levenson, UC Berkeley and Professor Richard Davidson, University of Wisconsin.

If you are seeking a graduate school to obtain a Ph.D.:

We recommend the same two universities above, UC Berkeley and the University of Wisconsin. But there are many other choices; emotion is a popular topic these days!

If you are a high school or undergraduate student interested in studying deception:

Unfortunately, there isn’t much to recommend because deception, as a research topic, hasn’t been explored or widely pursed by most educational institutions. Mark Frank in the Communications department at University of Buffalo, and Steve Porter at University of British Columbia, Okenagan Campus, both do research on the behavioral clues relevant to lying. Porter has challenged some of my work, but I respect his work. Frank is continuing many of the studies and approach I initiated.

If you are interested in boosting your emotional awareness and deception detection skills:

Paul Ekman Group created a series of online training tools, teaching you to spot micro and subtle expressions and to learn more about ways of responding to the emotional expressions of others.

We wish you much success in your studies! For more information and helpful links, please visit our FAQ page.


Paul Ekman is a well-known psychologist and co-discoverer of micro expressions. He was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine in 2009. He has worked with many government agencies, domestic and abroad. Dr. Ekman has compiled over 50 years of his research to create comprehensive training tools to read the hidden emotions of those around you.

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