Botox May Make You Miss Others' Emotions
A few well-placed Botox injections can erase your hard-won character lines. But that may also make you less likely to pick up on other people's emotions.
That's because the botulinum toxin, which reduces wrinkles by temporarily paralyzing small muscles in the face, can make it hard to furrow the brow or make other expressions that convey emotion. And our own facial expressions, researchers now show, may be essential to recognizing the feelings of others.
This unexpected Botox effect is a fascinating window on how we understand what other people are feeling. A good part of that process requires unconscious mimicry of the other person's facial expression.
Think about it. Don't you often smile when someone smiles at you? Put on a worried or dismayed face when a friend looks troubled? Tear up when someone else cries?
"The tendency to mimic facial expressions is rapid, automatic and highly emotion-specific," write David Neal and Tanya Chartrand in an intriguing paper just published online by Social Psychological and Personality Science.
Neal and Chartrand say the subtle contraction of our facial muscles when we mirror a friend's happiness or woe generates a feedback signal to our brains. Those incoming signals from facial nerves help the brain interpret how the other person is feeling.
It's all part of neuroscientists' recent focus on so-called "mirror neurons" – the brain cells that give us the power to empathize (to "feel with") someone else.
It's not easy to prove the existence of what psychologists call "embodied cognition" – the idea that the body influences the mind as well as the other way around.
Botox gave the researchers the opportunity to dampen the neural feedback from study subjects' facial muscles without introducing any drugs to the brain (Botox injected into the face does not get into the brain), or asking them to make a conscious effort to remain expressionless.
In one experiment, the researchers recruited 31 women who were already having either Botox treatments or injections of a dermal filler, which plumps up wrinkles but doesn't paralyze muscles. After the treatment, the women were shown a series of images that showed people's eyes embodying different emotional states. Study subjects were asked to judge, as quickly as possible, what emotion the eyes conveyed.
The Botox patients scored significantly worse than those who got a dermal filler. That meant the Botox patients' ability to make fast judgments about another person's emotions was blunted. (The Botox didn't eliminate their ability to judge emotion. They still were about 70 percent accurate.)
Neal and Chartrand then tested the opposite of the Botox effect. That is, they looked at how people judged emotive expressions when the feedback from their own facial muscles was amplified, rather than damped-down.
To do this, they painted one of those face-mask gels on subjects' temples and foreheads. When the gel dried and tightened, it provided resistance to subjects' facial muscles whenever they smiled, frowned or furrowed their brows. That amplified the neural feedback from muscles to brain.
Sure enough, people wearing the gel masks did better in judging other people's expressions than controls, who had the gel painted on their forearms. But when the researchers played audio clips of people expressing different emotions in their voices, there was no difference. That meant the improved performance was due to muscle mimicry, not just any emotive input.
The cognitive implications go well beyond Botox users. But the findings do make Neal and Chartrand wonder if prolonged use of Botox would hobble people's ability to perceive others' emotions and give others empathetic facial feedback.
"Mimicry promotes liking and emotional sharing," the researchers say, "and may contribute to long-term relationship satisfaction."
Having a Botox mask may undermine those bonds.
I wonder if this applies to other things like drugs that relax your muscles.
My relationships and interactions with people used to feel shallow when I was using St. John's Wort, which caused me to have a permanent smile on my face while I was on the drug. I was constantly grinning, smirking, and wrinkling the smile wrinkles at the corners of my eyes, and I never felt like I was bonding with anyone. People would smile more often when they looked at me if I had the drug-induced permagrin on my face. I would just walk around in a fake happy state and not need anybody for anything. I couldn't get deeply involved in anyone else's emotions. It wasn't only because of the facial muscles, but also because of the effect of the drug on my entire body.
I steal stars
Lol, I heard about this on the news. I was like, this is news? I thought it was just common sense.
not gonna be around as much anymore
Starfall-- I know, huh? Botox faces look so ugly.
lol I just feel those women are gonna narcissistically eat my soul! :/ (BnD )
Korpsey have you seen this article? It's similar to yours, I think, it came to mind..
I guess Botox not only makes you look fake, it makes you act fake as well.
Looks like Micheal Jackson.
Originally Posted by Starfall
Yes indeed, your article explores the very same idea, that mirror neurons cause us to unconsciously mimic one another's facial expressions to facilitate empathic understanding of others' emotional states. Reduced ability to identify others' emotions when drugs or exertion prevent the facial muscles from operating freely lends support to this hypothesis. It also ties in with Albert Bandura's theory of reciprocal determinism and also the concept of embodied cognition.
Originally Posted by dolphin
The concept of embodied cognition ... I'm glad someone has crystallized it into a research field. And yet it seems rather obvious to me. Maybe this is because of my background in performing arts? How many times did I hear a choreographer tell me that I could use the body to change my thinking and consciousness, rather than struggle at trying to approach things the other way around, making the body a servant of the mind? How often in learning piano-education theory and practice did I hear or read about the established fact that children who learn to play that instrument (and others) score higher than peers of similar background on just about every measure?
And the many years I have spent involved in Waldorf education also illustrate the idea of embodied cognition as applied in a school environment. Children are taught to knit, to paint, to sing, to play flutes and violins, to sew, to build, to garden, to play complicated games, to recite poetry, to do math physically (at first), to conduct scientific experiments based on observation--from the earliest age they are taught through the bodily experience of our world. They are offered beauty and stability and social challenge in an environment designed to feed the senses. All of this renders them complete, confident, strong--I now have seen students from these schools reach adulthood, and they are to a one fully realized and fluid in ways that their traditionally educated counterparts are not. They decidedly lack neurosis.
And on a more random note, I edited a book a while back by a musician named Bob Ostertag who wrote an essay essentially on the topic of why so much electronic music (of the academic, classically derived variety) is shitty. His answer was that it is generally not embodied. That art of any kind requires the presence, the trace of the human body ... else it isn't art. Else it cannot move us.
Originally Posted by Golden
Perhaps thats part of what makes Fe polrs, they make no effort themselves to put on the show. A lack of mirror neurons.
Originally Posted by Starfall
Generally the best ways to prevent wrinkles is taking care of yourself: sleep, quality diet, exercise. The other main thing is just wearing a good sunscreen/moisturizer everyday (zinc oxide is the best) and not getting sunburnt. A small amount of unshielded sun that your used to everday may actually be beneficial as well for health (5-30 mins or something). Wear sunhats, sunglasses ect.
The way to get rid of them without looking like a clown is basically retin-a which is pretty safe if you wear sunscreen and be healthy.
Last edited by jughead; 04-27-2011 at 08:29 AM.
Originally Posted by Timeless