Paul Ekman’s Psychological Work
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Is evolutionary in today’s world. His study and discovery of lie detection is key to helping solve issues in the media, government, and other criminal cases. Paul Ekman should be the top candidate considered for “Psychologist of the Year” because of how his unprecedented work and research helps change people’s lives while emphasizing on the importance of truth. Paul Ekman is a contemporary psychologist, which means that he studied and researched modern psychology techniques. He is famous for researching the science and signs of a liar, and how to detect someone who is lying. Paul’s definition of lying is, ‘“A situation in which, without prior notice or without expectation, you conceal information that was expected to be revealed, or you provide false information”’. Paul’s research started with a theory which is an explanation that fits many observations and makes valid predictions. In his experiments, his theory was that different facial expressions would determine whether or not someone was lying.
Paul’s intensive research over the years led him to discover a lot of useful information. He discovered micro-expressions that only last for about 1/25 of a second, so it is easy to miss. Paul discovered these expressions by looking at the symmetry of a person’s face. As soon as there was slight asymmetry seen, Paul recognized that as a micro-expression and knew that that person had been lying. He also discovered macro expressions that last from ½ a second up to four seconds are also telltale signs that that person is lying. By being aware of these signs and expressions, it can increase one’s emotional awareness and also help to detect a person you think is being deceitful. His research was not prejudiced against someone in a certain way, because he picked a group of isolated people in Papua New Guinea. He picked them because they were in such a different part of the world and also represented all different ages, which helped prove his research and experiments to be universal and not biased.
In his experiments, his independent variable or the variable that was manipulated was the different people and types of questions he asked. His dependent variable or the variable that reacted in response to the independent variables were the reactions that individuals exhibited when they lied. Along with being able to read different facial expressions, “Ekman concluded that there were both negative and positive emotions that were universal to all humans, although not all were visible in facial expressions” (Good Therapy). His experiments led him to discover the universal emotions of all humans and even some that were not externally visible. Paul Ekman focused on studying two different perspectives, with the first being the behaviorist perspective. That means that he studied observable behaviors. An example of this is how he studied the different facial expressions of the people in his experiments when they felt a certain way when they were asked different personal questions.
He was able to learn how people lying affected their outward behavior. His research also intertwined with the psychoanalytic perspective which is a perspective that deals with the unconscious mind. When people lie, their unconscious mind is connected to their asymmetrical facial features exhibited because the person is aware in their mind that they are lying, but they aren’t aware that their face quickly changes when they lie. The mind urges the face of a liar to slightly change which is how the psychoanalytic perspective is also connected to Paul’s research. Through his research, he discovered, “…expressions of emotion are involuntary…” (Henley). Paul also used experimental research where he manipulated the questions to get different results. This type of research that he used helped him to know when someone was lying and when they weren’t so that he could compare their facial expressions.
Paul Ekman’s theories about lie detection are detrimental in helping many people in the world. His theories greatly improved the quality of life in many ways. His research is unprecedented and also very modern, which opens up the door for other psychologists to build off of his research and theories and to find out even more about the psychological factors behind lying and how to tell when someone is lying. His research also helps people working in law enforcement professions. His research is just the beginning of what may be the answer to finding out the truth in some of the toughest court cases. It can also help police officers on the scene of situations where you can’t tell who is lying and who is the person to blame in a tough situation. To add on to that statement, “Unlike verbal communication or gestures, facial expressions are a universal system of signals which reflect the moment-to-moment fluctuations in a person’s emotional state”.
This quote shows that Paul’s research is especially important because it can be applied to anyone or any situation. This factor is especially important to so many cases, including abuse, bullying, and any other physical harm. It can also prevent physical harm, “Ekman has provided training to a whole series of people who were guards at Abu Ghraib prison, too, in how to extract information and truth without torture” (Randall). This evidence supports how beneficial Paul’s research is because by guards being trained in being able to detect someone lying, it prevents unnecessary abuse to get to the truth. His research makes finding out the truth much easier and safer than many other aggressive techniques that are used today.
Paul Ekman should be considered to be “Psychologist of the Century” because he discovered extremely useful information about lie detection while also discovering that human emotions were universal, which allowed his work to rapidly spread worldwide. The more people that become trained to differentiate between all facial expressions, the more transparent our world could become. His research highlights the importance of truth and connects all humans as one by tying them all together with the same common emotions. Paul’s work is extraordinary because of how impactful it is, and will continue to be in our world that is all too commonly filled with lies and deceit. Paul Ekman’s work is leading humans back on the road to being truthful.
- Henley, Jon. ‘The Truth About Lying.’ The Guardian, The Guardian News & Media Limited, 11 May 2009, www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2009/may/12/psychology-lying-microexpressions-paul-ekman. Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.
- ‘Micro Expressions.’ Paul Ekman Group, Paul Ekman Group LLC, www.paulekman.com/resources/micro-expressions/. Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.
- Morris, Andrea. ‘A Lie Detection Expert Talks About How To Figure Out When Politicians Lie.’ Forbes, Forbes Media, 16 Aug. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/andreamorris/2018/08/16/politics-and-lies-insights-from-lie-detection-expert-part-1/#54b1091e78ed. Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.
- ‘Paul Ekman.’ Good Therapy, 27 July 2015, www.goodtherapy.org/famous-psychologists/paul-ekman.html. Accessed 4 Mar. 2020.
- Randall, Kevin B. ‘Human Lie Detector Paul Ekman Decodes The Faces Of Depression, Terrorism, And Joy.’ Fast Company, 5 Dec. 2011, www.fastcompany.com/1800709/human-lie-detector-paul-ekman-decodes-faces-depression-terrorism-and-joy. Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.