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Paul Ekman, PhD ’58, ’08 (Hon.)

World's deception expert is ranked 15th among the most influential psychologists of this century

Road rage. Bursting into tears. Having a hissy fit. Freaking out. It’s not always easy to control emotions and emotional outbursts. Here to help us learn how to control them is psychologist Paul Ekman, PhD ’58, ’08 (Hon.). He’s a world-renowned expert in explaining human emotions who was named one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time magazine. He’s been sought out for his expertise by such notables as the Dalai Lama and Disney/Pixar.

Dr. Ekman is also an alum of the Gordon F. Derner School of Psychology, at the time named the Gordon F. Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies. He’s returning to his alma mater on Monday, October 4, to deliver this year’s Lindemann Lecture on Human Development, “An Evening With Paul Ekman: A Giant in Our Understanding of Emotions.” He’ll be explaining how to control emotional impulses and actions and apply emotional control. The free virtual event will be moderated by Dominic Fareri, PhD, associate professor of psychology, and is open to the public.

In his talk, Dr. Ekman will discuss how to spot signs of a pending outburst—and prevent it from occurring. He will offer step-by-step suggestions to help you recognize when an emotion is just beginning and when it is being concealed and how to acknowledge your actual feelings.

One of the World’s Most Influential People

After studying in the Adelphi clinical training program established by Gordon F. Derner, PhD, and earning his PhD, Dr. Ekman went on to break new ground in a burgeoning field.

He values the “very good clinical experience” he received, saying, “Adelphi was very permissive and the head of the department, Gordon Derner, was very supportive.”

“Dr. Ekman pioneered the study of emotions in relation to facial expressions—becoming a preeminent psychologist who also transcended the field to become one of the most influential individuals in the world over the past 60 years—and one who has done Adelphi and Derner proud as an esteemed alumnus,” said J. Christopher Muran, PhD, professor and interim dean of the Derner School.

Dr. Ekman’s years of fruitful research and study prompted Time magazine to name him one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2009. In 2014, the University of California San Francisco professor emeritus of psychology was also ranked one of the 15 most influential psychologists of the 21st century by the journal Archives of Scientific Psychology. He is the author of 14 books and more than 100 published articles and holds several honorary doctorates, including one from Adelphi.

The Deception Detector

Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell has characterized Dr. Ekman as a world-famous “expert in lying,” based on his reputation as a co-discoverer of micro expressions—the fleeting, unconscious facial expressions that reveal hidden feelings and emotions. It’s a discovery that sparked his groundbreaking explorations of deception and lying.

His 1985 book, Telling Lies: Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage (W. W. Norton rev. 2009), prompted him to develop workshops in detecting deception for law enforcement agencies such as the TSA, CIA and FBI, while his classic book Emotions Revealed: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life (Holt 2007) explains the science behind Lie to Me, the award-winning 2009 TV series inspired by his research.

Advising Hollywood

Dr. Ekman’s work not only inspired Lie to Me, but he was able to ensure that its science was accurate by advising the show.

Hollywood called on him again in 2015 to advise on Pixar Animation Studios’ animated megahit Inside Out, which explores how emotions and thoughts can connect within the dynamics of family relationships. As Dr. Ekman noted in a New York Times op-ed following the movie’s release, “emotions organize—rather than disrupt—rational thinking. . . [and] our social lives.” In short, they help define what matters most to people.

Resources for the General Public

Upon retiring from UCSF in 2004, Dr. Ekman determined to make his research and resources available to the general public. His Paul Ekman Group provides online training tools, while Paul Ekman International offers in-person workshops.

His recent work includes projects involving these training groups, as well as collaborations with his good friend the Dalai Lama, Pixar Animation Studios and his daughter Eve Ekman, PhD. He writes regularly on topics ranging from his groundbreaking discoveries to current events. Learn more about him and his impactful work at Paul Ekman Group.

Register for Dr. Ekman’s talk here.

Endowed by Carol Lindemann, PhD ’70, president of the Lindemann Abend Foundation, the annual Lindemann Lecture in Human Development presents lectures by thought leaders, researchers and writers in the field of psychology.

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