Nearly a half-​​century ago, a psy­chol­o­gist named Paul Ekman set out to see if human beings, from Papua New Guinea to Pitts­burgh, showed emo­tions in the same way.

He went around the world, showing pho­tographs of faces and asked people to iden­tify the emo­tions shown: fear, sad­ness, anger, dis­gust, sur­prise. What he found, in short, was that emo­tions are universal.

It became one of the most rec­og­nized psy­cho­log­ical works in the world. The find­ings are in the first chapter in most psy­chology text­books. They’re the basis for the multimillion-​​dollar industry built on studying facial expres­sions, taught to FBI agents, mar­keting exec­u­tives, cops and spies.

And they might be all wrong.


Lisa Bar­rett, pro­fessor of psy­chology at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity. You can find some of her papershere and here.

Read the article at WBUR →