Botox Might Dull Your Emotions

“People who think they can control their negative emotions and manifest them when they want to, simply deceive themselves.” —P.D. Ouspensky

In A Nutshell

For years, Botox has been injected into people’s faces to remove wrinkles and frown lines by paralyzing the muscles. While Botox can make us look younger, it can also make it difficult to use facial expressions to convey emotions. However, scientists have found that the inability to move facial muscles associated with emotion may also limit our ability to feel those emotions. The Botox mask appears to be more than skin-deep.

The Whole Bushel

We’ve all heard that smiling can make us feel happy and frowning can make us feel sad. Well, apparently something similar happens with Botox. For years, Botox has been injected into people’s faces to remove wrinkles and frown lines by paralyzing the muscles. While Botox can make us look younger, it can also make it difficult to use facial expressions to convey emotions.

However, scientists have found that the inability to move facial muscles associated with emotion may also limit our ability to feel those emotions. The Botox mask appears to be more than skin-deep. “With Botox, a person can respond otherwise normally to an emotional event, [such as] a sad movie scene, but will have less movement in the facial muscles that have been injected, and therefore less feedback to the brain about such facial expressivity,” said researcher Joshua Davis, a psychologist at Barnard College in New York. “It thus allows for a test of whether facial expressions and the sensory feedback from them to the brain can influence our emotions.”

When compared to a control group, people injected with Botox had less of an emotional experience when viewing videos designed to elicit strong emotions. This effect was most pronounced when the Botox group viewed mildly positive videos. They didn’t respond as strongly as the control group.

Other studies have also shown that the use of Botox affects how people feel and respond to emotions. Researcher David Havas from the University of Wisconsin found that Botox injections can make it more difficult for us to understand certain emotions expressed in language. When reading emotional statements, Botox recipients had some difficulty comprehending angry and sad messages, presumably because the facial muscles associated with those emotions were paralyzed. However, they didn’t have this problem with happy messages. The researchers believe that the feedback loop to our brains is disrupted if our facial muscles can’t respond to emotions.

In yet another study, researchers from the University of Southern California and Duke University found that Botox recipients have problems understanding what other people are feeling. When someone receives a Botox injection, he or she can no longer imitate the emotional responses seen on other people’s faces. According to the researchers, this makes it difficult for Botox recipients to comprehend what these other people are feeling.

This study flowed from earlier research in the 1980s suggesting that couples who had been married for a long time began to look like each other. The researchers wondered what would happen if those couples used Botox. Specifically, would the inability to imitate another person’s facial feedback stop us from understanding their emotions? The results of this study seem to suggest it would to some degree, although the researchers didn’t explicitly study long-married couples.

Although no one is saying that the use of Botox will turn patients into automatons, the results of all these different studies do suggest that Botox affects both our ability to feel emotions and understand them in some ways.

Show Me The Proof

LiveScience: Botox Limits Ability to Feel Emotions
NY Times: With Botox, Looking Good and Feeling Less
Newsweek: How Botox May Really Keep Us From Feeling Sad

  • Prstms

    So,Kristen Stewart’s mystery is finally solved 😀

    Jokes aside, things like this really terrifies me. I don’t why people even do this!

    • OldBoris

      I couldn’t. I can’t stand needles, ever since an incident where they had to take blood from me and the needle went right through the vein that it needed to be in and into the muscular tissue below. My arm was blue for days.

      • Prstms

        I can feel the pain mate 🙁

      • lbatfish

        Just think of it as a totally free avant-garde tattioo.

        • OldBoris

          Now all I need is a pathetic beard and music that you have never heard of.

          • lbatfish

            Exactly! And best of all, you’ll be the very first one to have blazed that route to astonishing success!

  • Damn.

  • SO my question is. Of course. Is it that botox does this to people or are those people more likely to get botox?

  • Hillyard

    Injecting poison into your face to look younger. Is it must me or does that sound insane to anyone else?

    • lbatfish

      Sounds less insane than than Fox/Rush/Beck/Jones/Murdoch injecting poison into the brain. The face is just am ornament, while the brain actually gets to vote (for better or worse).

      • Hillyard

        Your back. Good to have you here again.

        • lbatfish

          Very nice to hear from you! 🙂

          I’ll be popping in on a now-and-then basis for probably the next month or so. Later on (after I get settled in somewhere), I hope to be more regular.

          CLARIFICATION: More regular in commenting.

          • Why don’t you start a blog? I’d be a reader, and many others. Or do you have one already? Link please! 😀

          • lbatfish

            That’s the nicest compliment that I’ve gotten in recent years. Thanks! 🙂

            I had one real blog in the past, but it was very short-lived (only four posts, including the intro), and very specific — tech tips for my co-workers in the school district that I was tech director of. It existed mainly because I’d written the idea into our “tech plan” in order to help qualify us for “e-rate” funding for my district (without which we never could have afforded the HUGE cost of connectivity in that part of the world). Readership was probably less than fifty people, and after the tech plan got approved, I had other tasks that I needed to give a higher priority to.

            I also had one earlier one which was just a means of communicating info from myself to the instructor of an online course that I was taking on the MS-Access database. That one had a “readership” of only one person (the instructor), however, I did end up with an “A” for the course, and a couple of years later, I was able to clone the of it structure when I needed to create a tech blog. So it was worth doing. Links to both those blogs are here: https://www.blogger.com/profile/08506362365447569902

            I haven’t done any other blogs because I didn’t really have much to say on any particular topic . . . yet. The fun thing about commenting at LV (and also some other earlier bouts of commenting at various other sites) has been that I didn’t really need to initiate anything — I could simply respond to the articles and (especially) to the other comments. I found this more enjoyable than doing my own blog.

            I may create some in the future, though. Over the next few years, I hope to be working with teachers and students in various parts of the world (Mexico, Philippines, and China, for starts) on getting students doing some journalistic/photography-type things on the places where they live and the cultures that they’re part of. My main focus will probably be on printed books and/or e-books, but would likely do some things via blog and also some pix on Flickr. If this happens, I’ll try to provide you with links to them.

            In the meantime, if you enjoy reading snarky political kinds of writing, my favorite blog is the one that Charles P. Pierce does at Esquire. His extensive use of nicknames makes his references sometimes a little hard to understand (example: “Tiger Beat on the Potomac” is the name he bestowed on Politico magazine, with “Tiger Beat” being a magazine whose audience is primarily 14-16 year-old girls). But when he’s good . . . damn, he’s REALLY good. Up there with Kurt Vonnegut and Hunter Thompson (now both RIP, alas). It’s located here: http://www.esquire.com/author/7884/charles-pierce/

      • lonelydisco

        It’s about as believable if you meant all that literally.