Botox Impairs Communication Skills

New research makes one ask what is more important: less wrinkles or being an effective communicator?

A new study by USC and Duke found that Botox injections are affecting one’s communication skills by damaging patients’ ability to read emotions. After using Botox, those treated have more trouble interpreting what others are thinking and feeling.

This occurs because people read others’ emotions partly by mimicking their facial expressions, said professor David Neal.

“When you mimic you get a window into their inner world,” Neal said. “When we can’t mimic, as with Botox, that window is a little darker.”

The study was led by USC’s David Neal and marketing and psychology professor at Duke University, Tanya Chartand. The study was published April 22 in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. Neal and Chartand’s work furthers the theory that decoding the expressions of others is partially due to mimicking.

Botox removes wrinkles through a process that physically paralyzes facial muscles, but many of the “wrinkled” muscles people attempt to remove actually hold the key to understanding many emotions. For example, crow’s feet can show disgust or a genuine smile, lines on the forehead highlight fear, and wrinkles in between the eyebrows display worry.

“It’s somewhat ironic — people use Botox to function better in social situations,” Neal said. “You may look better but you could suffer because you can’t read other people’s emotions as well…Human communication can be a very subtle thing. When you eliminate a slice of information — whether by communicating through email and Twitter or by paralyzing your own facial muscles — it can be the difference between successful communication and failure.”

In the future, the researchers hope to look at the way Botox effects the ability to lie, as well as the role plays in couple communication.

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