The Dehumanizing Effects of Botox


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We are all familiar with the stereotypical frozen face that is associated with Botox: the seemingly permanently raised eyebrows, and the stretched and pulled back skin. Whenever I think of Botox I think of a scene in one of my favorite childhood movies, A Cinderella Story. In the scene, Hilary Duff's plastic surgery junky of a stepmother has just come back from getting more Botox. The stepmother is telling her whiny twin daughters how upset she is that neither of them have been crowned "Cinderella" at the high school dance, and one of them comments on the fact that her mother doesn't look very upset. It is evident that she cannot express her apparent unhappiness because the Botox has paralyzed her face. 

As demonstrated by the evil stepmother, people who get excessive amounts of Botox appear to be devoid of emotions. It is almost as if they are plastic. But do the subjects of Botox have more in common with Barbie dolls than their unnaturally smooth faces and inability to show emotion?

In fact, Botox has many more dehumanizing effects than you would think. Those injected with Botox aren't just unable to show their own emotions, but they are also stripped of the imperative ability to read other's emotions. One of the most crucial parts of having functional relationships with the people in our lives is the ability to empathize, and Botox rids us of that ability.

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So, why does Botox impair our ability to empathize? The answer is <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_neuron">mirror neurons</a>. One of the amazing parts about being a human is our neurological ability to mimic the emotions we see on the faces of the people around us. For example, if someone smiles the muscles in our faces will mimic that smile, causing us to share the happiness of the other person. This ability allows us to have closer, more complex relationships than other species.

Mirror neurons work so that we can copy the actions of other people. They function in ways that extend beyond just emotions. The same neurons that would fire if we were performing an activity ourselves fire when we are watching another person perform that activity. This allows us to learn how to carry out tasks faster and more efficiently.

Since Botox paralyzes the muscles in the face, it makes it nearly impossible to mimic the facial expressions of others, let alone convey our own emotions with our own authentic facial expressions. As a result, the relationships of people with Botox tend to suffer. Since they cannot relay their own emotions, it makes it harder for the people around them to read their emotions and empathize with them. Just like the subject's friends and family cannot read his or her emotions, the subject cannot comprehend the emotions of his or her friends or family. This leads to various misunderstandings, difficulty communicating, and the inability to relate to one another.

In an <a href="http://www.psychologyinaction.org/2011/05/24/can-botox-impair-your-ability-to-empathize-with-others/">observational study</a> conducted by Social Psychological and Personality Science, sixteen Botox patients were asked to participate in the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test. The results proved a causational relationship between Botox and an impaired ability to empathize. In the study, the patients were asked to identify the emotions depicted in numerous pictures. The group of Botox patients scored astonishingly low compared with the control group of people without Botox.

So there you have it, Botox may rid your face of wrinkles, but it will also rid you of one of the most essential neurological functions that make us human. Is smoothing your wrinkles really worth the inability to connect with your loved ones?

 

4 Comments

Botox immobilizes our ability to feel sympathy emotion? I find that rather interesting I was always led to believe that emotion came from the brain as does Candy Lawson Ph.D. http://www.cdl.org/resource-library/articles/connect_emotions.php. That is actually the first time I have ever heard of that but I find it rather interesting were there a various amount of studies done or just that one? One part that I do strongly agree with you on is the fact that they have trouble expressing their emotions and figuring out others emotions. I say that for the simple fact that when they look in the mirror and a botox injected person is happy or sad they look exactly the same as they did when they didn't have those emotions. From that I can conclude that it is slightly possible that the botox injected person will automatically assume everyone else's emotions are hidden as well although I don't agree completely, though it is a slight possibility. Based off of what I know about emotion (which is just the basics not honestly much) people should definitely be able to pick up on family and close friends' emotions if not everybody mainly because they can see the other person's facial expressions. As for the test not everybody is fit to be a judge of emotions how can one say that those participants of the experiment were among those fit to do so http://www.unh.edu/emotional_intelligence/ei%20What%20is%20EI/ei%20who%20is%20emotionally%20intelligent.htm

This is an interesting topic, and it definitely makes sense that not being able to mirror a person's emotions would impair a person's ability to empathize, but is there no other way for the body to counteract this? I find it very strange that we would only have one major way of being able to read each other's emotions. I've been looking for any other part of the body that contribute to empathy but I haven't really come up with much. If any one else can find something please let me know.

My grandpa being a plastic surgeon who also provides botox at his clinic gives me some credibility to talking about this subject. However, i find it hard to believe that just because one gets botox they are less likely to interpret others emotions. Since one would have had mirror neurons for their whole lives up until the injection of botox, I feel that the botox wouldn't be able to affect it as much. It can definitely affect the way you mock other emotions, but not the interpretation. Botox eventually wears out after time if one lets it and from there one would be able to restore their ability to mock emotions again.

I found this to be a really interesting topic because it explored "side effects" of Botox that most people wouldn't usually think of. It was also fascinating that the Botox impairs how the patients themselves read other peoples' emotions, rather than how other people read their emotions (if I'm interpreting the article correctly). It brought to mind some segments on news programs where a specialist analyzes the body language of politicians and public figures to find hidden meaning in what they're saying. Their subconscious actions don't just include things like posture and hand motions, but also facial expressions. I wonder how much Botox hinders those subconscious actions.
It'd also be interesting to see how quickly this side effect of Botox appears and whether or not one's ability to read emotions is completely restored once the Botox wears off.

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