Emotions are what "make life livable,"
writes psychologist Paul Ekman in Emotions Revealed, a hands-on book that
flirts shrewdly with psychology and anthropology. Ekmanís more than 40
years of research have led him to the conclusion that emotions, and
accompanying facial expressions, are largely universal.
According to Ekman, emotions themselves can't be turned
off, but they can be controlled. In his book, he draws upon the Buddhist
concept of mindfulness to explain how, by tuning into a personís own
emotional triggers, one can develop a heightened "attentiveness,"
thereby side-stepping future blowouts. He addresses the "cascade of
changes" that occur physiologically in an individual in the throes of
one of five salient emotional categories.
Ekman has been studying facial expression of emotions for
30 years. This book is a document of this research. Over the decades, Ekman
and his colleagues gathered evidence of the universality of seven facial
expressions of emotionĖanger, happiness, fear, surprise, disgust, sadness
and contempt. In every culture they studied a large majority could recognize
the basic emotional expressions portrayed by people in other cultures, and
others could recognize theirs.
Certain emotions are universal, hardwired into facial
expressions and the brain. However, emotional expressions are
culture-specific. People smile or display anger for many reasons, and they
don't reveal these emotions when such displays would be considered rude or
inappropriate. Ekman and his collaborator Wallace Friesen created a coding
system that identifies each of the nearly 80 muscles of the face, as well as
the thousands of combinations of muscles associated with various emotions.
Ekman found that when people try to hide their feelings,
they use different groups of muscles than they do for authentic feelings.
For example, authentic smiles of joy involve the muscles surrounding the
eyes; false or social smiles bypass the eyes completely. In Emotions
Revealed, Ekman, who is a professor of psychology at the University of
California at San Francisco, beautifully interweaves his research with
anecdotes, recommendations, and the behind-the-scenes flubs, accidental
discoveries and debates that never make their way into published articles
but that are the essence of scientific inquiry.
He reviews whatís known about the triggers, automatic
and learned, that set off an emotion and how we might learn to manage or
even get rid of them.
He then examines five emotions in detail: sadness, anger,
fear, disgust and contempt, and the "enjoyable emotions." He even
includes wonder, defined in terms of "its rarity and the feeling of
being overwhelmed by something incomprehensible." Because of Ekman's
emphasis on the universality of emotions, especially those written on the
face, readers will not learn much about the raging debate about emotions
that do not necessarily have particular facial expressions, such as pride,
envy, jealousy, compassion, and romantic or parental love.
A renowned expert in nonverbal communication, Paul Ekman
has led a revolution in our scientific understanding of emotions. Now he
assembles his path breaking research and theories in a comprehensive look at
human emotional life.
Emotions Revealed explores the evolutionary essence of
anger, sadness, fear, surprise, disgust, contempt, and happiness. It answers
such questions as: What triggers emotions and can we stop them? How does our
body signal to others whether we are slightly sad or anguished, peeved or
enraged? Can we learn to distinguish between a polite smile and the genuine
Unique exercises and photographs help readers identify
emotions in themselves and others. Emotions Revealed is a practical,
mind-opening, and potentially life-changing exploration.