Paul Ekman

25/8/19

Paul Ekman was the inspiration for Tim Roth's character Dr Cal Lightman in the TV show Lie To Me (Sky, 2009-2011). Eckman is an American psychologist and professor emeritus at the University of California who is a pioneer in the study of emotions and their relation to facial expressions. He posits the existence of 'Truth Wizards' who are able to spot deception or lying in someone without any formal training by reading facial "microexpressions" to assist in lie detection. Ekman claims that there are universal facial movements that are common across all human beings and not subject to cultural influences and when we lie or conceal the truth verbally, we unconsciously reveal the truth in very brief facial movements (often only parts of a second).

The issue with this, as is the case for all lie detectors (even if these microexpressions actually exist), is that the detection is not testing for lies but for something that may correlate with someone lying, but equally they may correlate for other reasons too. Even if someone is lying and is revealing the lie subconsciously, it does not reveal the reason for the lie, nor if someone thinks they are not lying, but are instead fooling their own internal conscious beliefs.

Eckman has come under criticism from other psychologists. His ideas are seen as unfalsifiable and difficult to replicate in real world situations. Come along to the Banshee Labyrinth tonight to learn all about these techniques and whether they have any grounding in reality. Our final talk of Fringe 2019. 7:20 - Beatrice Johnston - Microexpressions: A Cautionary Tale on the Consequences of Unchecked Research.

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