Atlas of Emotions

In the U.S. the field of psychology has grown in popularity. In the 2006-2007 school year, social science was tied with history as having the second largest number of awarded Bachelor’s degrees.

In fact, there are so many people majoring in psychology in the U.S. that psychology majors have the highest unemployment rates of all recent college graduates, with 19.5% of clinical psychology majors and more than 10% of educational and industrial/organizational psychology majors unable to find work.

A lot of this popularity is due to the work of people like Paul Ekman, an American psychologist, who has created an Atlas of Emotions, which identifies over ten thousand different facial expressions. He has also written fifteen books about body language including Telling Lies and Emotions Revealed.

Due to his high (albeit imperfect) success-rate with using small details in a person’s facial expressions to induce larger truths about that person, Ekman has served as an advisor to several police departments and anti-terrorism groups, including the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Thanks to his work, Ekman has gained a reputation as the best human lie detector in the world.

Additionally, Ekman’s work was recently used as the basis for the television crime drama Lie to Me, a show in which several psychologists and facial expression experts use their knowledge of body language to assist in investigations. This show ran from 2009 to 2011, and won two People’s Choice Awards in 2011.

Sigmund Freud

Although Sigmund Freud was an Austrian his methods of psychoanalysis to resolve personal conflicts had tremendous influence in the entire German-speaking world, and eventually beyond. Psychoanalytical therapy involved up to three hundred individual sessions.

For Freud, as the founder of psychoanalysis, it was essential to identify unconscious emotional developments in order to understand human behavior. The earliest years of childhood are especially relevant. Psychological problems – conflicts – can be traced back to those earliest of years. 

Understanding developments over very long periods of time are fundamental to Freud’s approach to conflict resolution. Tracing psychological problems far back into one’s personal history, making the unconscious conscious, is the opposite of a quick (hasty) resolution of conflict.

Reconstructing Memories

“The uncritical acceptance of eyewitness accounts may stem from a popular misconception of how memory works. Many people believe that human memory works like a video recorder: the mind records events and then, on cue, plays back an exact replica of them. 

On the contrary, psychologists have found that memories are reconstructed rather than played back each time we recall them. The act of remembering, says eminent memory researcher and psychologist Elizabeth F. Loftus of the University of California, Irvine, is “more akin to putting puzzle pieces together than retrieving a video recording.” 

Even questioning by a lawyer can alter the witness’s testimony because fragments of the memory may unknowingly be combined with information provided by the questioner, leading to inaccurate recall.”

From: “Why Science Tells Us Not to Rely on Eyewitness Accounts”, Hal Arkowitz and Scott Lilienfeld. Scientific American magazine, January 8, 2009.