Paul Ekman: Outsmart Evolution and Master Your Emotions

Paul Ekman: Outsmart Evolution and Master Your Emotions

One of the most amazing discoveries, it completely
surprised me, and that’s what I like most in research is when you learn something you
didn’t you were going to learn. That’s very different from research where you prove something
you think you already know. You have to do that too ’cause maybe you were wrong, but
when you discover something you didn’t expect, that’s really exciting. And what we discovered, published this more
than 20 years ago, made the front page of the New York Times. We didn’t kill anybody.
What it did was show that if you put on your face one of the universal expressions you
will turn on the physiology of emotion. You will begin to experience that emotion. So
the face is not simply a display system that tells you what’s happening inside me. I can
self generate any emotion by making the movements on my face. Now some of them are harder to make than others,
and wouldn’t you know it the one that’s the hardest to make is the one that turns on enjoyment
’cause a smile alone won’t do it. You have to be able to activate one of the muscles
around the eyes and only about ten percent of the people we’ve tested can do it. We are just beginning to use this discovery
of how you can self generate emotion to teach people how to become more aware of what they’re
feeling at the moment they feel it. Because it is my belief — and I want to underline
the word belief ’cause I can’t prove this — it’s my belief that the way in which emotions
evolved it was to deal with things like saber-toothed tigers. The current incarnation of which is
the car that’s suddenly lurching at your car at a high speed. You don’t have time to think. You have to
do and make very complex decisions, think of what you do to avoid that car you make
split seconds estimates of speed and angle and what you need to do with your feet and
your hands. And if you had to think about what you were doing, you’d be dead. So it’s
a system that evolved to deal with really important things without your thinking about
it. So that means that sometimes you’re going
to be very inconsiderate, very thoughtless, sometimes your emotions aren’t going to fit
the situation and you’re not even going to know it until someone says to you, “What are
you getting so upset about?” And you think, “Oh, my God. That’s right. I’m really afraid.
I don’t know why. Maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe I misunderstood the situation.” Well these exercises that we’re giving people
— moving their facial muscles, concentrating on the sensations that they then experience
to make them more aware of an emotion when it arises, so that they will feel it at the
moment and then can say, “Did you really mean to ignore me when she put the toast on the
table? No. That was just an accident. Or maybe I shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that she
doesn’t care about me at all. And why doesn’t she care about me?” That whole business, it
takes the way in which we can improve our emotional life is to introduce conscious awareness
into the process and that will take practice and nature did not want you to do that so
you have to do it yourself.


  • Elbownian says:

    What a bizarre and baseless statement.

  • Chandrasekar Venkataramanan says:

    Look up "microexpressions", Mr.I-don't-show-what-i-don't-feel.

  • Sebastian Bossert says:

    Huh, I guess that explains why some people aren't capable of "laughing it off". Guess I'm lucky to be one of the few 😀

  • Jungle Jargon says:

    It is bizarre for you to think objects made you, without being directed.

  • Jungle Jargon says:

    You proved nothing so you can tell me nothing.
    Objects did not make you, without being directed.

  • Robin Claus Beyer says:

    He said he had evidence that facial expressions can activate the emotion physiologically. Can anyone help me out there?

  • Dominik Rohde Piur says:

    Fake it till you become it 🙂 It is a skill which can be easily learned by watching happy faces close up. Keep in mind though that those are e-motions and feelings are on a hormon level and thus distinct and closly linked to our health conditions.KISS Emotions can be learned (see great artist) and feelings are a matter of livestyle (mood)

  • Shane Harris says:

    This is why we need more communication between artists and scientists. This video could seem enlightening to laypeople but this is common knowledge to any trained actor. It's like how many knew Earth was a globe long before it was accepted.

  • zarkoff45 says:

    One way to defeat nature.

  • Rum Ham says:

    are the 10 percent able to do that because it is a unique skill or because they know they are supposed to. if it is a skill, is this skill innate of something that can be practiced.  

  • HazyHerbivore says:

    I already knew this :/

  • The Crimson Fucker says:

    Superficial Notification: He sounds like the Narrator from Civ V.

  • fuzzyone99 says:

    Yes! I can consciously generate the eye movement that's necessary for joy! I just tried it! It works.

    I find that interesting because I've never been one to fake a smile (or trust anyone who would), always understanding that the telltale eye movement is crucial. 

  • saltyseascott says:

    I have something for you to research for you, figure a cure for people who get rich and then in a very short time turn into tyrants as if they know something.

  • Katrina Payne says:

    This… is incorrect. Doing this changes how your emotions work. If you do this facial expression generated emotions you change how the facial expression maps to an emotion.

    So if you make yourself happy in situations of fear, dread, anger or upset… that express will instead start filling you with fear, dread, anger or upset. At the same time happiness will change how it feels and is expressed.

    Knowing your emotions is good… changing your emotions by changing facial features. It isn't so much nature doesn't want you to do that… it is more… that fucks up neurons in your brains and shit.

  • John Waugh says:

    This is sheer bunk. You can neither genearate or control "emotion". Emotion is a signalling process which induces physiological changes,when we perceive threat
    or promiseand enables us to best cope. Like other "emotion" theorists Ekman describes
    feelings and thoughts as emotions and  categorises such and related expressions with "emotion word labels" Emotion, as subjective experience, can induce or lead to certain  feelings but is itself a discrete process.

  • Joseph Draughn says:


  • katsucats says:

    Whoever wrote the title doesn't know what Evolution is.

  • Sam T says:

    A lot of doubters in the comments but I agree with him, not in the absolute sense that facial features will completely rewire your emotions but they do have a strong effect.

    Another discovery is that body language immiedately changes perception of ones self.

    We are social animals, and more so than any other mammal the social influence on us is a fundemental part of our emotional structure. Your facial features and physical language is half the battle.  "Perception is Everything."

  • Mitchell Leary says:

    Damn, I learn more cool stuff listening to Big Think and TED Talks than I ever learned sitting in a college classroom.  Now that all the bookstores are closed and I can't sit around and read books and drink coffee all afternoon, it's nice to have the net.  And when I really get to missing books, there will always be used bookstores.  Public libraries are lame and the books are always 15 years behind the times.

  • John Waugh says:

    When you can't answer a constructive criticism you can always remove the comment  Speaks a bundle?.

  • peter erik says:

    club sociopath here. teach people to be even more fake, why dont you.

  • Sere says:

    He has 4 watches…wtf!?

  • Joseph Draughn says:

    Outsmarting evolution means trusting evolution.  The reason why I trust evolution is really quite simple and it all began with trickery.  Why do people always assume that other people are out to trick them?  Even trickery is just an opinion.  An opinion isn't a fact.  Facts don't exist, only reputable ideas, and then everything else.  Reputable ideas exist because of everything else.  Everything else (or everybody else) is where reputable ideas come from.  Isaac is only as smart as the people around him.  His ideas aren't his.  His ideas are the culmination of his experiences.  That's why trickery doesn't exist.  Anybody around him is where his ideas came from.  All ideas come from somewhere.  What changes an idea is the order and combination that these ideas present themselves in the span of a single life.  Our interpretation of these ideas will change depending on who we are.  Life and death is staggered.  The only way to beat evolution is through spontaneous mass extinction.  There is no right or wrong, just differences, and changes.  My ideas aren't my own, I got them from everywhere, and I've spent the last two years of my life trying to figure out how to put them all together.  Confusion occurs when a circumstance seems to be embedded into another one.  Certainty occurs when all circumstances seem to belong within themselves.  Certainty feels sarcastic.  Confusion feels intense (or serious).  I've given my confusion a name and I call her depression.  If a genius is depressed then I'll be the first to admit that all I've ever been is confused.  This entire video confused me.  I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to find that I'm not the only one here who's confused.  It's a shame that confusion is related to embarrassment.  I've observed that most other people are so intuitive that they will learn the definition of a word and then misuse it.  In communication, most of the time I start by comparing my definition of a word to my girlfriends, then we'll both look up the true definition of the word together, and we've found that our inability to communicate is because we both use words differently then each other.  Before opening up a diary I would recommend reflecting my words off of somebody else's.  When intentions aren't mentioned in a conversation it's impossible to communicate on a practical level.  Conversation without intentions is where domination comes from.  Dominating somebody can be easy if your intentions are made clear.  We love the gender who's intentions we can understand.  I have an easier time understanding the intentions of women then I do men.  For that reason, I'm attracted to women and not men, and so on.  If my interpretation of these intentions is sarcastic, (as in on a broad level, as if to compare myself to all other straight men,) then I'm inclined to accept them.  The more isolated the ideas become the less like me they are and the more likely I am to disagree with them.  I can find a man attractive but only as long as he doesn't have intentions towards me.  I've never met a man without intentions so I can't love a man, but I can understand why another man might love a man, and for that reason I can respect them both.  I love romance and I hate suffering.  Those who haven't found romance are bound to cause me suffering.  Because life and death is staggered love and suffering is unpredictable yet inevitable.  For that reason, I trust evolution, because I don't have any other choice.  Nobody can outsmart evolution.  You can't.

  • Roxanna Lopez - Fishbein says:

    Paul Ekman is right. He is absolutely right. 🙂

  • Dave Dawson says:

    How can I beat straight face? I've stoic mannered and every so often I get comments on how I should smile more, cheer up etc. Even when I'm fine. Once I was in a bar laughing, out of my head, just fine and a woman said it to me so…I mean WTF can I do with that? It's effecting my quality of life. I think I'm slightly autistic.

  • Thanatæ x says:

    Placebo Hero

  • coriolanus78 says:

    Well sounding nonsense

  • Explosive Juice says:

    Thats honestly amazing?

  • Heavenly Jerusalem says:

    I actually disagree that if you are in a life threttening sitation you stop thinking and you have to just do something, no that is not the case, what happens is you stop thinking about junk, other stuff and you become present and in the very moment. You than draw most of your lifes energy into intensly figuring out the solution and you act on it because you know this is it, this is the moment you have been preparing for, this is that moment when you have to get dead seriouse. That's how human physiology works I think. 

  • Ken Bell says:

    I've used these insights for over a decade. To quote the Dali Lama : "…sometimes your smile is the cause of your happiness".

  • Tilly Wilson says:


  • Eydok says:

    I the beginning he looked up right, so he was making it up!

  • Daniël Boomsma says:

    Can't believe this has 3200 thumbs up and only 40 down.

  • zellcrs says:

    Laughing doesn't do it?

  • firehand1011 says:


  • James Mccarthy says:

    here is a simpler way to engage in an emotion. To engage in joy, do something you enjoy. To engage in sadness, watch a sad film or listen to a sad piece of music.

  • Rcham says:

    Wow! Someone on BigThink that actually states that what they're stating is a belief!

  • ShadowTheSoulless says:

    I use the whole what ever expression you have will make you feel a certain way thing for years, just like if im not sad and i'm with my friend at a funeral for say their grandma, but i am there as a friend for emotional support , i will assume a slightly saddened face and then feel a sort of very faint sadness that allows me to fit in and act in that mind set so that they feel i really do feel bad for them. when really i am just there because my friend asked me to be there, and im nice so i do what they ask. (i know this may make me seem cold but its just how i am)

  • Silvia Yiyi says:

    I understand so well what you are saying Dr. Ekman…that my chest hurts…damn…I really need to excersice.

  • Miguel Ayala says:

    "Nature did not want you to do that"

    Excellent video, well spoken, & thought out. 

    I respectfully have to disagree with the very last statement. 

    We have, through years of experiences, good or bad, sculpted the tools (biologically, chemically etc.) necessary to survive. Vision, cognitive abilities, bio-mobility in oder to live long enough to transform the monkey mind into the poet. The poet then becomes the scientist, the scientist then becomes both part poet-scientist, then the poet-scientist becomes the pseudo-creator(demi-god) and so on. Sounds crazy but there seems to be a trajectory. (IMHO) We are barely scratching the surface on how we are going to communicate with each other, most efficiently, & I would not be surprised if it wasn't small acoustical noises.

  • Mr. Redsnake says:

    I can do it 😀

  • Oglethorpe Zippelmeier says:

    Nature is not an entity so it cannot "want" or "not want" us to do a thing. It is not to be anthropomorphized.

  • 誰にも 見れない ゆめ を みて says:

    Is it just me or is he just very likable? I kept smiling while he was talking.He just seems like a really calm and friendly person

  • Benji Friedman says:

    "it completely surprised me"
    as he shakes his head no

  • Fiery Sunset says:

    The Flow State aka "the zone"

  • realkeb says:

    I tend to just smile for no reason in the morning, not because i am happy, but because it makes me happy.

  • Keksimus Maximus says:

    I want to study and be whatever this dude is

  • Ideya Koni says:

    Conscious Awareness!!! 2thumbs up!

  • Kaima Moonfury says:

    He's basically just describing meditation.

  • Keenan Miller says:

    667th comment ….didn't like that 666. Superstitious I know.

  • mireazma says:

    I like Paul Eckman in a strange way I liked detective Columbo 🙂

  • The little view Master Creepypasta says:

    What would you say if I can't feel so this isn't entirely true

  • Axel The Red Panda says:

    I can completely shut off 2 of my emotions, sadness and anger. it is very helpful but I don't know what caused it I didn't try to do it, just a month and a half ago I developed the ability to do this it is weird but amazing

  • TR1PpyNick says:

    1:20 you mean like pull your ears back squint?

  • White Fartt says:

    If we view people that tend to "annoy us," assuming that we've amassed the adequate amount of wisdom to think "bigger," with an empathetic perspective, we can then really understand where they come from and be unhindered mentally and emotionally by their actions, which could stem from insecurities or the illusion of knowledge. The hardest task is the mastery of the self. But if 1 can achieve this state, then life will be so fruitful and fulfilling. Think bigger than yourself. It's as simple as that. All of the wisdom that have been passed on from generation to generation can be summed up in a simple phrase. Just think bigger than yourself. 🙂

  • Pure Villainy says:

    My sadness/anger is also gone for no cause. A close aunt passed away and I didn't feel anything. My parents separated a month later and I didn't feel anything.

  • chronecro says:

    Being dishonest is good, we learned that through the media during the administration of Hillary's husband, Monica's ex-bf.

  • Sgt. Amazing Name says:

    Thank Ekman 🙂

  • Ketu Dedeffo says:

    I cannot control my facial expressions. And 70% of them don't go with my exact emotions. I tried to type this up and got nothing. It also effects my social life which sucks

  • cl0udedm1nd says:

    Yeah you should like totally not watch those videos when youre high

  • Marat Yousif says:

    I want to feel no emotion… Like Decim from Death Parade.

  • MrChubs209 says:

    then why do I smile on but feel like dying inside?

  • Taylor The Warlock says:


  • Flabber Gasted says:

    I have been using fake smiles all my life and have found that people do read your eyes before anything else most often. And if you aren't smiling with your eyes they realize you don't mean the smile. And I figured out how to fake smiles a long time ago. I often have to try to project the feeling of a smile to my eyes. It's difficult to explain. I've always found it kind of easy to read what other's are feeling and what to do and how to act to get the best reaction out of them. What to refrain from doing and what things please them the most and how you present yourself around them. I've learned to do that to fit others simply by reading their feelings and their body language. I met a psychiatrist once and asked them what they could tell about me. She told me that I was really good at faking a smile right off the bat. And that she is also very good at it so she recognized it. And that I'm often times very upset and I try not to show it. Which is true. And she could read it because she knew how to by feeling the same way and learning about it. I think I know what he is trying to describe on the muscles to use around your eyes when using a fake smile. It's is the bottom lid area and the outer corner of the eyes as well as a slight squint to your eyes. Kind of feels like you are lifting your eyes into a smile while also projecting kindness and happiness to that person through your eyes.

  • phi dnb says:

    fuck it, even if you smile all the way through you probably won't get happy. I honestly advise so to give a damn about your own facial expression. I felt bad for a long time, didn't like me because people kept telling me my eyes somehow are looking though them or be hostile in a way. But i never was hostile then but just honestly curious and tensed about what they were going to say. And i don't want to pretend to be happy still, but i want to be honestly if so. Just when the moment hits you – then you forget about your own expression and express not what you want to (no further manipulation) but really give something out, giving a true signal of your inner state into the outside which then will reflect and come back in an honest way. Otherwise false emotion and play is the only thing you can get.
    This just is some philosophy of mine… in the hope of helping anyone who tries not to harm and harms himself just because of that. Feel good you jaunty soul!

  • hemen kalita says:

    better take narcotics. easy and proven.

  • Some Person says:

    This youtube channel needs more of this guy.

  • Turnips Pickled says:

    Yeah I came here looking for a way to stop having emotions………….. This was useless

  • UCzDwella201 says:

    Emotions are derived from evolution. In the small duration of our lifespan, we don't just create the ability to control such a primordial intuition.

  • Orlon Arsino says:

    I'm still having a hard time understanding this guy. So what is the basic goal? To not let your emotions control you so you can think logically?
    please someone help

  • mushroom mario says:

    Never trust a guy that won't shave his head when mostly balding

  • HC BEATs says:

    he said "unconsiderate" instead of inconsiderate

  • ku lu says:

    Holy shit this guy looks way younger than he actually is

  • BigHeadAstro says:

    I have felt so much, that I can't feel shit anymore.

  • Joe Soap says:

    How do you stop the flash to bang….you cant all you can do is slow ot down by taking evasive action. Cut the cord to stop amygdala hyjacking. Thank you for your insight and wisdom.

  • Leighton Maarman says:

    Where can I find the full interviews?

  • Jax Santos says:

    Should talk faster

  • Alan Hill says:

    As an actor, I'm learning nothing new. Thespians, spouses, politicians, con-artists, et. al. have known this for centuries. No "big thinking" here.

  • clarkewi says:

    This is an amazing subject. A new science – controlling your emotions thru controlling your facial expressions.

  • Sarvam Jagadidam says:

    "She…" But this video is only useful for men. The problem is that the woman is not a rational creature. She is emotionally irrational. Hence, attempting to explain emotions rationally to any female is a futile endeavor.

  • William Magann says:

    Any more l'm very leery of these type of claims. Remember the "power posture" research claims that now the original researcher states are unsupportable? It is tough to believe just about any of these "scientists" / "social scientists" when it has become very clear most are actually extremely bad at their jobs. I don't know who to believe anymore.

  • Mike R says:

    Mega like to this video! Thanks for sharing.

  • The Original Gamer says:

    I'm in the 10%. That makes me happy. 😀

  • Mary McClung says:

    Start here… and see what you think for yourself.

  • valar says:

    Master your emotions like a fisherman masters bait.

  • Barry Kort says:

    "Cognition, Affect, and Learning" ~ http://TinyURL.Com/Cognition-Affect-Learning

  • Ricardo Alexander says:

    How come it takes a human this many of yrs of there life to utilize the psych of the soul,mind,and body. Reality is not real if it's designed by human with being. Serving two God's can be troubling if one overrules the other vice versa. Conditioned realities plagarized by lower level human denies the freedom of the being. Controlled thoughts generate one's reality but a copy cat is looked at the same sociological sociopathic way.This means that the amount of humans out here have no control over the being of there self. If you fall in the category of being inflicted with mental environmental conditioning which caused you to become a target of human decontamination of the being connected to the spirit mind controlling the ATP. thought category with only tools to one frequency is human decontamination of the spirit. If you can control the physiological ATP movement then you can train the thought to connect with the vision just like moving your limb. I could only imagine why humans have been confined to a lower state of fleshly over control. Temptation mixed with this mental breakdown being the conclusion after long age of work and worriation. If you have not accomplished the controller of the EAGLES EYE TO MANNERFEST THE POWER ELEMENTAL INSIDE YOU. THEN ACCOMPLISHMENT OF SELF HAS NOT BEEN MET. THERE ARE MANY RICH PERSONS THAT HAVE NOT THE TRUE POWER OF SOUL SPIRIT CONTROL BUT LURE MASSES BECAUSE OF CONTROLLED CONDITIONINGS.

  • Micky Antiforms says:

    "Nature did not want you to do that"….show some respect for your mother! If nature did not want you to do that it's because was trying to save your ass. If you'd smile while facing a tiger you would be dead gone. I don't get all the modern mess with emtions and feelings, they trying to transform people in machines. If you feel sad just feel damned sad, if you corrupt your emotions you may be happier im long term but you may lose different things in the process…

  • Holly Lynn says:

    You pointed out the muscle around the eyes being important in activating enjoyment. I think, think… I may have figured out the muscle. Its a struggle to do it. Lol. My whole face is contorted, but it evokes the emotion. Just started trying this. Will see. Ty

  • Peter Gama says:

    I looked this up because I realised that changing facial expressions changes the way I feel iv Been using this in daily life I just wanted to see if it is actually common.

  • David Katuin says:

    I think you have to understand what an emotion is first . Provoking is not controlling.

  • Danny B says:

    This video is important. Show it to everybody.

  • Hodda Taheri says:

    Dr. Ekman. I know that this is up and coming and we have so much to learn from this. I would personally like to learn from you and your programs. I am not guaranteeing that I'll blow your mind with results but I am so very passionate about learning the reasons and the drives that get us to do these seemingly unnoticeable behaviors. I would love to learn and maybe become part of a team that helps to work on the tweaks and find the magic of how human bodies interact so seamlessly. Please feel free to email me at [email protected]
    Your encouragement or guidance will mean the world to me. Thank You, for opening up lines of communication where most wouldn't dare to search for them.

  • Aliona Aliona says:

    I apologized before … may the video be translated into Indonesian … I would love to learn from Tuan Ekman based on the video

  • Ali Sobut says:

    I have read 4 books by Paul Eckman and I am a die hard supporter of his research. The show called "Lie to me" on Netflix is based on one of his books called "Telling lies". I highly recommend his work for those of you who are interested to know what this guy is about.

  • Allanzo says:

    I want to be more serious. I get really self conscious with my facial expressions.

  • liquid milk says:

    MENTALTV made me com here 🙂 Nice!

  • Ross Friedman says:

    Cognitive therapy

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