Botox & Its Effects on Empathy
Does getting Botox inhibit our ability to read others’ facial emotions? It might, according to a new study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science that found that people who had Botox injections were significantly less accurate at reading others’ emotions in photos compared to those who had Restylane injections.
Despite the findings, it’s important to note that even the study’s author David R. Neal, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Southern California, admitted that it’s a “fairly subtle” effect.
The study found that women who had their facial folds treated with Restylane were able to read others’ emotional states with about 77% accuracy, while those who had Botox had 70% accuracy.
Why would Botox have this effect and not other fillers? According to Neal, evidence suggests that people use mimicry to register and label the emotional states of others, so something that limits one’s ability to reproduce another person’s expression of emotions, such as Botox — which has a paralyzing effect on facial muscles in the immediate vicinity of the injection site — would likely impair one’s ability to register or label those emotions.
Andrew Jacono, MD, a facial plastic surgeon in New York City who reviewed the study, said that the findings likely only apply to those who use excessive amounts of Botox.
“When Botox is overdone, it doesn’t look right and people aren’t perceived in the right way,” Jacono said. “The goal is to try to make sure when you get Botox, it is done in a subtle way so you can look better and maintain your ability to emote and read others.”