Paul Ekman (born February 15, 1934) is a psychologist who has been a pioneer in the study of emotions and their relation to facial expressions. He has been considered one of the 100 most eminent psychologists of the twentieth century. The background of Ekman's research analyzes the development of human traits and states over time (Keltner, 2007).

Ekman was born in 1934 in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Newark, New Jersey, Washington, Oregon, and Southern California.

Paul Ekman was an undergraduate at the University of Chicago and New York University. He received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Adelphi University (1958), after a one year internship at the Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute.

At the University of Chicago, his classmates included Susan Sontag, Mike Nichols, and Elaine May.

He received a Research Scientist Award from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in 1971, which was renewed in 1976, 1981, 1987, 1991 and 1997. For over forty years, NIMH supported his research through fellowships, grants, and awards. He also wrote a famous book called "Telling Lies" in the year 1985. He was encouraged to write this book by his college friend and teacher Silvan S. Tomkins.

In 2001, Ekman collaborated with John Cleese for the BBC documentary series The Human Face. He retired in 2004 as professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). From 1960 to 2004 he worked at the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute. He was named one of the top Time 100 most influential people in the May 11, 2009 edition of Time magazine.

Ekman's work on facial expressions had its starting point in the work of psychologist Silvan Tomkins.Ekman's projects included developing techniques for measuring facial muscular movement while also developing theories about emotion and deception through empirical research. Ekman showed that contrary to the belief of some anthropologists including Margaret Mead, facial expressions of emotion are not culturally determined, but universal across human cultures and thus biological in origin. Expressions he found to be universal included those indicating anger, disgust, fear, shame, joy, sadness, and surprise. Findings on contempt are less clear, though there is at least some preliminary evidence that this emotion and its expression are universally recognized.Ekman's first publication in 1957 discussed all of his findings on developing methods for measuring nonverbal behavior.
In a research project along with Dr. Maureen O'Sullivan, called the Wizards Project (previously named the Diogenes Project), Ekman reported on facial "microexpressions" which could be used to assist in lie detection. After testing a total of 20,000 people from all walks of life, he found only 50 people that had the ability to spot deception without any formal training. These naturals are also known as "Truth Wizards", or wizards of deception detection from demeanor.
He developed the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) to taxonomize every human facial expression. Ekman conducted and published research on a wide variety of topics in the general area of non-verbal behavior. His work on lying, for example, was not limited to the face, but also to observation of the rest of the body.
In his profession, he also uses oral signs of lying. When interviewed about the Monica Lewinsky scandal, he mentioned that he could detect that former President Bill Clinton was lying because he used distancing language.
Ekman has contributed to the study of social aspects of lying, why we lie, and why we are often unconcerned with detecting lies. He is currently on the Editorial Board of Greater Good magazine, published by the Greater Good Science Center of the University of California, Berkeley. His contributions include the interpretation of scientific research into the roots of compassion, altruism, and peaceful human relationships. Ekman is also working with Computer Vision researcher Dimitris Metaxas on designing a visual lie-detector.

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