What does the Dalai Lama have in common with the latest Fox TV crime show?
Yes, just a few months after he published Emotional Awareness, a series of conversations between himself and the Dalai Lama on the nature of emotion, Ekman is associated with another high-profile project, albeit one that exists at the other end of the cultural spectrum. Ekman's extensive research on human facial expressions and body language serves as the basis of the new Fox series, Lie to Me, which debuted last week and is airing its second episode tonight (after American Idol, a time slot that would make even the Dalai Lama jealous).
The show stars Tim "Mr. Orange" Roth as Cal Lightman, a "scientist who studies facial expressions and involuntary body language to discover not only if you are lying but why," according to the show's website (Disclosure: I haven't seen the show yet). Lightman uses his lie-detecting powers to help law enforcement agencies solve tough cases. Ekman maintains (as he did in this recent New York Times profile) that while the show 's premise is based on his research, the Lightman character is not directly based on him (despite the loose similarities between their names, and the fact that Lightman's organization is called The Lightman Group, not to be confused with The Paul Ekman Group).
Ekman serves not only as the inspiration for the series but as a consultant on it as well. He also keeps an entertaining and edifying blog that clues people in to the science behind the show (and is intended to let viewers know when the scripts actually stray from the science). If Lie to Me is as engrossing as Ekman's blog, the series may last–or at least last longer than Fox's ill-fated Do Not Disturb.
You can read Ekman's post-show analysis on his Lie to Me blog.
Finally, you can watch the video of Ekman discussing his recent collaboration with the Dalai Lama at the event Greater Good hosted in October to celebrate the release of Emotional Awareness. And you can register for the upcoming Greater Good event featuring Ekman and his protege, Greater Good Executive Editor Dacher Keltner, "Building Compassion, Creating Well-Being."
About The Author
Jason Marsh is the editor in chief of Greater Good.