It's a common stereotype that a person who's had too much Botox® can't form normal facial expressions as a result of the paralyzing injections. But according to a new study, the reality could be even scarier—Botox® may lessen a person's ability to understand the feelings of others.

A key part of everyday communication relies on the facial expressions we make while speaking. These expressions help to elucidate the meaning of what we say, which is one reason why speaking face-to-face can make communication more clear. Scientists theorize that we use a similar practice when listening. We unconsciously mimic speakers' facial expressions, helping us to understand and interpret what they're saying. This phenomenon is called embodied emotion perception.

When you receive Botox® injections in your forehead or laugh lines, they paralyze facial muscles and render them unable to form full expressions. This paralysis can impair you from understanding others' emotions, since if you can't replicate them, you can't fully feel them, making it difficult for your brain to process properly.

The study took two different approaches to exploring how restricted facial expressions affect our emotional intelligence. The first experiment compared people who had recently received Botox® injections to a group who'd received synthetic filler injections. Participants were asked to decode the emotional state of subjects in photographs, and the results showed that the Botox® group was 7 percent less accurate. In the second experiment, scientists applied a restrictive gel designed to impair facial muscle movement to a different set of subjects. They discovered that when the subjects were aware of the restriction they worked harder to interpret the photos, boosting their accuracy. Both experiments support the theory that we need some kind of physical effort in order to understand the emotions of others.

If you're considering anti-aging injections, you may want to consider facial fillers that don't have Botox®'s paralyzing effects. But any procedure comes with its own set of side effects, so it's important to consider all options, including topical anti-aging remedies.




Neal, David T. & Chartrand, Tanya L: "Embodied Emotion Perception: Amplifying and Dampening Facial Feedback Modulates Emotion Perception Accuracy" Social Psychological & Personality Science. Web. April 21, 2011.