Everyone knows that a little paralysis is a side-effect of botox. So you can’t move your face so much. No big deal, right? Look at all that smooth, unwrinkly skin! Its worth it, obviously.
Well, not so fast. Some pretty compelling scientific studies seem to suggest that the price might be a little higher than that. Botox might turn you into a bitch!
The face is a blank canvas for emotions. Some people are more expressive than others, but sadness, anger, happiness, and every other emotion show on even the most stoic mugs. What is less obvious, is that it works the other way around, too. When you make a facial expression, you can change your emotions. Want to feel happy? Smile. Want to get riled up so that you can intimidate someone? Make angry face. Want to boost your confidence before a job interview? Sit up straight, uncross your legs and do your best impression of James Spader’s Robert California from The Office. At Harvard Business School, they even advocate striking a “power pose” before a sales meeting just to get your brain into the right mode for success.
But emotions and facial expressions aren’t solitary things. We don’t just smile because we’re happy or get happy because we smile. We react to other people. When we see a cute kid smiling, it makes us smile (and our brain reacts). When we comfort a friend in trouble, our faces change with our sadness (and our brain reacts).
So, what happens when you can’t make those faces? Well, your brain doesn’t get that stimulation. If you’re all juiced up with botox, you can’t smile at the kid or make sad faces with your friend. When you can’t make the faces, your expressions can’t stimulate your brain. And, we all know what happens to just about any part of the body that doesn’t get exercise. It gets flabby, atrophies, and stops working the way it is supposed to.
So, can botox make you bitchier? Well, yeah. If you can’t move your face in empathy, then you get worse and worse at empathy. Your brain starts to forget that move. You don’t just react less to other people, you actually start feeling less for them. (Could this be Bravo’s secret for success in their Real Housewives franchises?!?)
Here’s a great TED clip of Ron Gutman talking about a slew of smile studies.
“Did you know your smile can be a predictor of how long you’ll live — and that a simple smile has a measurable effect on your overall well-being? Prepare to flex a few facial muscles as you learn more about this evolutionarily contagious behavior.”
If you want to read a few scientific papers on the facial feedback hypothesis (FFH) and the botox studies, CLICK HERE, HERE, and HERE. For a little easier to read look at the LA Times story on those studies CLICK HERE.