Botox May Deaden Ability to Empathize, New Study Says
According to a study published in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science, Botox may not only numb facial muscles, but also – and for the same reason – numb users’ perception of other people’s emotions.
According to David Neal, a psychology professor at the University of Southern California, “if muscular signals from the face to the brain are dampened, you’re less able to read emotions.”
Neal and his research team compared the effects of Botox and Restylane on the one hand, with a gel that amplifies facial signals on the other. The key finding, according to Neal: “When the facial muscles are dampened, you get worse in emotion perception, and when when facial muscles are amplified, you get better at emotion perception.”
Neal’s research seem to mesh with an study conducted last year by Barnard College professors Joshua Davis and Ann Senghas. As Davis put it: “With Botox, a person can respond otherwise normally to an emotional event, e.g. a sad movie scene, but will have less movement in the facial muscles that have been injected, and therefore less feedback about such facial expressivity… It this allows for a test of whether facial expressions and the sensory feedback from them to the brain can influence our emotions.”
Taken together, the two studies seem to indicate a direct relationship between ability to express emotion through facial expression, and the ability to experience emotion oneself, or identify it in others.
Two studies don’t necessarily add up to a conclusive finding. But should the link between physical expression and emotional experience bear out, it could develop into a marketing challenge for Botox marketers such as Allergan.
Sure, Botox has been at times described as giving users a poker face. But a reputation of turning users into Stepford Wives (or husbands, boyfriends, bosses, grandmas etc.) would have the potential to spread rapidly, and be hard to combat. Allergan’s marketing department would be well served to get a head start on messaging points in case the meme takes off.