Botox injections smooth wrinkles by paralyzing the muscles that make facial expressions. But now, researchers say that cosmetic injections of the toxin may actually affect emotions as well.
Scientists at Barnard College found that facial expressions aren’t just a reaction to our feelings—they also influence them through a feedback loop. For example, a feeling of happiness may make a person smile, but smiling also reinforces the happy feeling.
The use of Botox, which causes only a temporary paralysis, has allowed scientists to isolate the effects of facial expressions on feelings for the first time, Joshua Davis, Barnard College psychology professor and co-author of the study, said in a statement.
“With Botox, a person can respond otherwise normally to an emotional event, e.g., 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,” Davis said. “It thus allows for a test of whether facial expressions and the sensory feedback from them to the brain can influence our emotions.”
The study was published in this month’s issue of the scientific journal Emotion.