Los Angeles — Botox injections to smooth facial wrinkles can dull the patient’s ability to read emotions in others, a study conducted at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles (USC), and Duke University suggests.
Lead author David Neal, Ph.D., a USC psychology professor, and co-author Tanya Chartrand, Ph.D., a marketing and psychology professor at Duke, maintain that having Botox (onabotulinumtoxinA, Allergan) injections to smooth out wrinkles dulls one’s ability to fully mimic other people’s facial expressions. The authors say that ability is a key means by which people perceive and interpret others’ feelings, according to Medical News Today.
To support their theory, researchers conducted two experiments — one to dampen facial-feedback signals, the other to amplify them. In the former, investigators compared two groups that underwent cosmetic procedures to remove facial wrinkles: One group — designated the Botox group — received an injection that reduces muscular feedback; the control group received a dermal filler. The authors write that they found “emotion perception was significantly impaired” in the Botox group.
In the amplifying experiment, they tested the notion that feedback signals are stronger when facial muscles try to contract but meet resistance, which was brought about by getting participants to apply a gel to their faces. In this part of the experiment, researchers found that “emotion perception improved, and did so only for emotion judgments that theoretically could benefit from facial feedback.”
Medical News Today quotes Dr. Neal as saying that the ability to mimic other people’s facial expressions is a way of getting “a window into their inner world, (and when) we can’t mimic, as with Botox, that window is a little darker.”
The study was published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.