Botox - one of the many self-cultivating tools people use in the effort to design themselves - works by paralyzing the muscles involved in producing facial expressions. Studies suggest that by doing so, it limits the ability to process the emotional content of language, and may lower the quality of emotional experiences.
Every year Botox is injected into millions of faces to reduce wrinkles and frown lines on the forehead. While Botox can help us to look younger to fit into society’s standards of beauty, it can also make it difficult to use facial expressions to convey emotions. Furthermore, researchers have found that the inability to move facial muscles connected to emotions may also impair our capability to feel those emotions.
Do we smile because we are happy, or are we happy because you we smiling? Darwin first posed the idea that emotional responses influence our feelings in 1872. He believed that facial expressions are indeed important for experiencing emotions. In The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, he wrote that “the free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it, [whereas the repression of all outward signs softens our emotions”.
Smiling and frowning helps the brain interpret feeling and improves the ability to empathize, by preventing those facial movements Botox makes it harder to feel deep emotions.
“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.” The effects of Botox seem to be more than skin-deep.