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Pants on Fire 

Wednesday, Jan 30 2008
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Dr. Ekman knows you're lying, so don't even try it. The top-shelf psychologist is a pioneer in documenting facial expressions, and he's a friend of the Dalai Lama, a go-to guy for the FBI and the CIA, and a consultant for Pixar. He earned his keep forty years ago when he set out to prove that expressions were universal (first proposed by Charles Darwin) and not learned culturally or through imitation (as suggested by Margaret Mead). He found his answer in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, where there lived a group of natives, the South Fore, who were untouched by other cultures and the media. Lo and behold, they held the same core expressions for key emotions as your local plumber. Ekman then went on to show how "microexpressions," the brief snapshots of concealed emotions that last for less than a quarter of a second, can be used to detect lying, making him a person of interest to our nation's spooks, including the Department of Homeland Security. An exhibition of the photos from Papua New Guinea, "The Search for Universals in Human Emotion," celebrates the fortieth anniversary of his pioneering work. It runs in conjunction with the Exploratorium's Mind Lecture Series, which presents "Art, Emotion and the Brain" (a panel discussion featuring a neuroscientist, a war photographer, a film composer, and a theater director) tomorrow at 2 p.m.
Feb. 1-May 11, 2008

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Michael Leaverton

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