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Deciphering Emotions

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Dr. Kim Mulvihill reportingCan you distinguish between a polite smile and a genuine thing? Well, the first step is to decipher emotions.

Dr. Kim Mulvihill introduces us to a world reknown expert who shows us just how easy it is.

When it comes to communicating how we feel, the face can tell all. But what the face communicates can also be easy to misunderstand, and at times, even harder to even see.

How can you distinguish between a lie and the truth? Between genuine and faked emotion?

That's where Dr. Paul Ekman comes in. He is one of the best at deciphering faces and their emotions.

"There are seven emotions that have a universal signal that we can see in other animals as well," he says.

Those emotions are fear and anger, sadness, disgust, surprise, enjoyment and contempt. With each emotion, there are hundreds of variations of expressions: Some emotions are easy to spot. But others are so fleeting, lasting only a 25th of a second, that you can miss them in the blink of an eye.

"They're concealed emotions. They are emotions the person has they are trying to deliberately conceal or they are totally unaware of it and it's repression that's producing it."

Ekman says learning to spot concealed emotions will help you understand how other people really feel, not just in intimate relationships and friendships, but in the workplace as well.

Paul Ekman, Ph.D./ Department of Psychology: "Do they really mean what they say. Is the report really going to be as rosy, or are they unloading their stock in the meanwhile? You can see all the applications."

So I decided to apply Dr. Eckman's skill to an episode of the tv reality show Survivor - where deception is key: here, the women offered the men chicken bones to gnaw on - without telling them they had already feasted on the chicken.

"I feel like such a bad kid," one said.

But these women didn't fool Eckman. He said their faces showed an expression he calls duping delight: that's when people engage in deception for the sheer thrill of it.

"Before the guys came back there was a lot of sort of collusive enjoyment, mock fear about whether they were going to get caught. But it wasn't real fear. It was mostly excitement about the trick they were playing."

With the right training, you too can catch the real meaning. Learn the difference between a genuine happy and a social happy. Spot contempt or a quick look of surprise.

But it's not infallable. These days there are ways to out fox even the experts- with drugs that calm you down, or botox, the miracle wrinkle cure.

"Well, I would like a law to be passed in the state of California that you would have to reveal before you testify whether or not you've had botox, and whether you're under an medications that are psychoactive. If you've been taking Valium for the last few days, I think the finders of fact should have a right to know that."

Dr. Ekman has created two cd-roms to teach people how to decipher emotions.

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