Paul Ekman Essays

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For Darwin, this was further evidence that humans and other animals had some kind of common evolutionary ancestor, as well as that emotions had some kind of biological, innate source.

It was also a way to avoid outraging pious Victorians by claiming that they acted like animals; he thought that it would be much more persuasive to do the opposite, and point to cute, humanlike behavior in pets.

In 1928, when Mead’s was published, her findings shocked American readers, and provided strong evidence that fundamental human experiences—including emotions—varied from culture to culture.

Mead’s work—finding evidence that emotions, and other social phenomena, were culturally constructed—had a huge influence on 20th-century feminist thought and activism.

Innate emotions were in again, and it was Ekman’s research that was responsible.

It should be noted that Darwin was far from the first to suggest that emotions were innate.The world is being flooded with technology designed to monitor our emotions.Amazon’s Alexa is one of many virtual assistants that detect tone and timbre of voice in order to better understand commands.In 1955, Mead wrote the foreword to a reprint of Darwin’s essay, but she critiqued it as a historical curiosity.In her opinion, it wasn’t a work that held up in light of more modern research.The acclaimed anthropologist Margaret Mead had already spent years traveling the world, demonstrating that cultures express emotions differently.Most famously, Mead had lived during the 1920s on the small island of Ta’ū, in American Samoa, in an effort to discover if the emotional upheaval experienced by American and European adolescents was universal.More than two millennia ago, Aristotle wrote about how “some men, who are in no sense alike, have the same facial expressions.” Nor was Aristotle the only ancient philosopher who thought this way.It was received wisdom throughout antiquity, persisting well into the late 17th century.Paul Ekman was born in 1934, the child of a pediatrician father and an attorney mother.He spent his youth dreaming of emulating his hero, Ferdinand Magellan, hoping to someday make discoveries that would change the world.


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