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The Ascent of AffectGenealogy and Critique$
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Ruth Leys

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226488424

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226488738.001.0001

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Paul Ekman’s Neurocultural Theory of the Emotions

Paul Ekman’s Neurocultural Theory of the Emotions

(p.76) Chapter Two Paul Ekman’s Neurocultural Theory of the Emotions
The Ascent of Affect

Ruth Leys

University of Chicago Press

An analysis of the work of Paul Ekman, arguably the most influential figure in the emotion field today. According to Ekman's "neurocultural" version of Tomkins's affect theory, through socialization we expand the range of stimuli that can elicit our basic emotions and can learn to deliberately moderate our facial movements according to the conventions of "display rules." But under certain conditions the underlying basic emotions will betray themselves in micro-movements of the face discernible only to the trained expert. To clarify the methodological issues at stake in Ekman's research, the chapter discusses problems raised by his use of photographs of posed facial expressions as an experimental tool. It also explores the implications of Ekman's fundamental physiognomic assumption that a distinction can be strictly maintained between authentic and artificial expressions of emotion based on a differences between the faces we make when we are alone and those we make when we are with others. Throughout the discussion the aim is to bring out some of the tensions and contradictions inherent in Ekman's affect program model. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the influential neuroscientist Antonio Damasio's related claims about the emotions.

Keywords:   Basic Emotion Theory, cross-cultural judgment studies, Antonio Damasio, Paul Ekman, false smiles, felt smiles, Margaret Mead, posed expressions, spontaneous expressions, Silvan S. Tomkins

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