Thursday, August 23, 2007

Emotions Revealed

A few years ago while reading one book I was inspired to read another. This is a common theme for me and is actually why my reading list continues to grow. If every book I read inspires me to read at least one more I guess I’ll never run out of good reading material.

I started out by reading The Wisdom of Forgiveness by the Dalai Lama. About halfway through they mentioned a meeting between His Holiness and Paul Ekman. Ekman is considered the world’s foremost expert on emotions and the human face. He's like a body language expert who focuses solely on the muscles of the face. He recently made the news for interpreting some of the Al Queda videos. Ekman commented that when the Dalai Lama felt any emotion that he felt it 100% and that based on his expressions he was the most honest and genuine person he had ever met. This prompted me to start reading Ekman's own book Emotions Revealed: recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life.

Starting from the most basic studies that show blind infants smiling Ekman was able to prove that our facial expressions are not learned behavior. He then took his research around the world to show that there is little if any variation in how our faces show emotion. Ekman studied several isolated cultures around the world and concluded that our emotions are somehow hard wired to our face. It’s very hard to stop our face from reacting to what our mind is feeling. Even in those that can successfully conceal their emotions, Ekman was able to demonstrate how their concealment would show on the face.

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