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Emotions Revealed: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life Paperback – March 1, 2004

4.4 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Emotions are what "make life livable," writes psychologist Ekman in this unique hands-on volume that flirts shrewdly with psychology and anthropology. His 40-odd years of research have led him to the conclusion (originally presented by Charles Darwin) that emotions, and their 10,000 facial expressions, are largely universal. While an American smile may look much like a grin expressed by a Fore tribesman of Papua New Guinea, what actually triggers the toothy twinkle is culturally, socially and even individually determined. Emotions theselves can't be turned off, but they can be controlled, and Ekman draws upon the Buddhist concept of mindfulness to explain how, by tuning in to one's own emotional triggers, one can develop a heightened "attentiveness," thereby side-stepping future blowouts. Ekman addresses in detail the "cascade of changes" that occur physiologically in an individual in the throes of one of five salient emotional categories (sadness, anger, fear, disgust and enjoyment). In his engaging style, he asks his readers to conjure these emotions by studying photographs, meditating upon their own experiences and, if that fails, to contort their faces into specific expressions, for Ekman has found that physical manifestations actually generate corresponding emotional responses in the brain. It is Ekman's hope that once these expressions have been identified, his readers will benefit from an increased sensitivity, and will possess the skills necessary for approaching others gripped with apparent emotion. 100 b&w photos
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Scientific American

Chelsea Thomas was born with Möbius syndrome, in which a nerve that transmits commands from the brain to the facial muscles is missing. As a result, for her first seven years Chelsea looked perpetually grumpy. Then surgeons transplanted nerves from Chelsea's leg to both sides of her mouth, and today Chelsea can do what most people in the world take for granted. She can smile. Meanwhile, thousands of adults are botoxing the nerves that allow them to frown. Actors who do so cannot convey anger or fear, and some botoxed mothers complain that their children no longer take their admonitions seriously, accompanied as they are by the mothers' bland expressions. Paul Ekman would not be surprised. He has been studying facial expression of emotions for some 30 years, in the noble tradition of Aristotle, who first observed the characteristic facial expressions of anger, fear "and all the other passions," and Charles Darwin, who added an evolutionary explanation. Darwin's theory of the universality of emotional expression was unpopular in the 1960s, when Ekman began his research. It was the era of the tabula rasa in social science; Ekman was to emotion what Harry Harlow was to love, swimming against the academic tides. As a graduate student at the time, I was in that tide up to my neck, and I remember how vehemently psychologists protested the idea that any aspect of human behavior might have a hardwired element. Facial expressions? Clearly cultural. Don't the Japanese coolly suppress any sign of emotion, and don't the Italians exuberantly reveal theirs? Over the next decades, Ekman and his colleagues gathered evidence of the universality of seven facial expressions of emotion: anger, happiness, fear, surprise, disgust, sadness and contempt. In every culture they studied--in Japan, throughout Europe and the U.S., and among the nonliterate Fore of New Guinea--a large majority could recognize the basic emotional expressions portrayed by people in other cultures, and others could recognize theirs. Yet, as Ekman also showed, cultures do differ widely in the "display rules" of emotional expression. 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 can do all of them himself.) When people try to hide their feelings or "put on" an emotion, Ekman found, 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 what is 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." I was charmed to find naches on the list (the Yiddish word--it rhymes with "Loch Ness"--for the pleasure and pride that "parents feel when their child accomplishes something important"), along with "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 (Ekman does not consider these to be "emotions," although other researchers do). Nor will readers learn much about the origins of emotion blends (such as naches, wonder, longing, the feeling of "bittersweet," and schadenfreude), which are more varied across cultures and individuals and which appear to be uniquely human, involving as they do higher cognitive processes. Readers will enjoy seeing the many facial expressions of Ekman's favorite photographic subject, his daughter, Eve, who must have received ample compensation in fatherly naches for her ability to isolate and vary her facial muscles to reveal each basic emotion. These photographs serve brilliantly for scientific research, but whether they will help readers become better at accurately detecting another's emotion is doubtful. As research by others in this field has shown, when we read another's emotion, we do so through the filters and blinders of culture, the immediate situation, status, our own history, and degree of familiarity with the target. The face reveals, and the face lies. And as Ekman himself once observed, we wouldn't want it otherwise.

Carol Tavris, a social psychologist, is author of Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion (Touchstone Books, 1989). --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; First Edition edition (March 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080507516X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805075168
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #187,166 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Everyone has an understanding of emotion, but few people agree on what the word really means. For example, how is 'emotion' differentiated from 'feeling'? Are emotion and logic independent? This book should help you explore these questions.

Ekman starts with arguments for the universality of emotional display. All humans produce the same facial displays when engaged in a moment of anger or sadness. Reactive displays are generally 'honest' but fleeting. All socially adept humans have learned to disguise their emotional displays. Sometimes a high-speed camera is required to capture and 'freeze' the initial 'true' display. Given the difficulty of 'real time' determination of an emotional display's meaning, Ekman standardizes his approach on a suitably literal plane. For example, the raise eyebrow means 'X' in 'Y' percent of the population, but only 'Z' percent recognize it.

Here is an outline of characteristics Ekman uses to define emotions:

1. Emotions are experienced as feelings, a set of sensations that we experience and often are aware of.

2. An emotional episode can be brief (less than a second to several seconds). If it is longer, it is a mood

3. It is about something that matters to the person

4. We experience them as happening to us, they are not chosen.

5. We are constantly scanning our environment. Emotional responses are automatic reactions to these perceptions. In this sense, emotions are an 'early warning system'.

6. Refractory periods exist after the emotional response. During this refractory period, only perceptions that supports the emotional response is considered.

7. The refractory period may last a few minutes or much longer

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Format: Hardcover
Who isn't captivated by the unspoken language of expression. Very few in science today would dispute that non-verbal expression contributes a signficant amount of "information rate transfer" in every human to human exchange.
That's why I ordered this book. I was curious to know how the mechanics of non-verbal expression (manifested in the face) generally worked. Paul Ekman has been at the forefront of this research since the mid-sixties. Before ordering, I spent some time at his site (of same name as the book) and was impressed enough to do what the site pushes you to do: order the book...
I was mildly dissapointed. While the book has plenty of interesting factoids, from the beginning it felt way overwritten. Almost like the author had a 24 page lesson plan and decided to stretch it out to 240 pages. In my opinion, there is allot of "fluff". Granted, some may be interested in reading 20 pages about the fact that emotions are nature (vs. nurture) across all cultures...well, that was hotly debated 20 years ago, now it's generally accepted as fact...move on.
The meat of my issue with the book is that it should have been a lesson plan. My favorite part of the book is at the end when there are 14 pages of faces with barely registered emotion on them that you have to discern the meaning in. I wanted that throughout the book.
If you have a particular fascination with this subject, I'd recommend ordering the CD's and using the interactive lesson plan. Skip the book.
Hope this was helpful.
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Format: Hardcover
Charles Darwin wrote a book called "Expression of Emotions in Man and Animal." It was an overnight best seller when it came out a century and a half ago. But by the 1950s, Darwin's view -- that emotions have an important evolutionary base -- was in eclipse. Psychologists and anthropologists (like Margaret Mead) thought facial expressions of emotion were a product of culture.
Paul Ekman rescued Darwin's contribution with his own research in primitive areas of the world. Like Darwin and his voyage of the Beagle, Ekman took a hard look at actual data. And he's been looking ever since.
Today, Ekman is a world class expert on face and emotion. Probably THE world class expert. For instance, when the Dalai Lama wanted to know about modern research on emotion, Ekman was one of a handful of experts flown to India to give the Dalai Lama a five-day, one-on-one seminar. (See Dan Goleman's book "Destructive Emotions.")
Unlike the Dalai Lama, Ekman is not a Buddhist. But if he were it would be tempting to believe he is this generation's reincarnation of Charles Darwin. Again and again, reviewers comment "Not since Darwin..."
Ekman's current book may not turn out to be the immediate best selling blockbuster that Darwin's book was. But it certainly deserves a wide audience. It's an excellent summary of what is known about the face and feeling today. It lets the reader look over the shoulder of an active researcher. You see work in progress -- and get a peak into the future.
In short, anyone interested in understanding their own feelings -- and the feelings of others -- will find this book a readable, useful and fascinating journey. The emotions are a world be meet face-to-face every day -- yet for most of us this realm remains a mystery. This book provides a valuable roadmap.
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