Paul Ekman was born in Washington, DC, USA in 1934. He is Professor of Psychology, in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California Medical School, San Francisco. Ekman was an undergraduate student at the University of Chicago and New York University, where he latterly received his BA in 1954. He obtained an MA from Aldelphi University in 1955, and his PhD in 1958, also from Adelphi University, after spending a year in clinical internship at the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute, part of the University of California, San Francisco. Ekman was drafted into the US Army in 1958 and was chief psychologist at Fort Dix New Jersey, 1958-1960. On discharge from the army, Ekman returned to the University of California to begin a three-year postdoctoral research fellowship. When that ended he was supported by research grants, and in 1972 was appointed Professor of Psychology.
Ekman's interests have focused on two separate but related topics. He originally took an interest in 'non-verbal' behaviour, at a time when it was largely neglected in mainstream psychology, and among his first achievements was the development of a taxonomy of non-verbal behaviours. By the middle 1960s Ekman's work centred more specifically on the expression and physiology of emotion, with his particular studies in New Guinea, and his conception of 'display rules' to account for cultural differences in the control of expression, becoming well known. Ekman's second interest, dating from the same period of time, is interpersonal deception, and he was the first to publicise the term 'leakage' with reference to how non-verbal behaviour can betray deceit. His 'Facial Action Coding System' is widely used to measure facial movement objectively.
Ekman has received many honours, most notably the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association in 1991, and an honorary doctor of humane letters from the University of Chicago in 1994.