"We know that language moves us emotionally," said the lead author, David Havas, a psychology graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "What this study shows is that that's partly because it moves us physically."...This has deep implications, far beyond the obvious reason to avoid taking Botox.
The researchers asked 40 women waiting to receive first-time Botox injections to read a series of 60 sentences on a computer, pressing a key when they understood each sentence. To make sure participants were reading the sentences, the researchers periodically checked their reading comprehension. Participants repeated the test, using a fresh set of questions, two weeks later when the Botox treatment's paralyzing effect was at its height.
After treatment, participants were slower to understand sentences conveying sadness or anger than they had been before treatment. There was no such change for happy sentences. Mood analyses ruled out the possibility that the women were simply happier after receiving Botox, making them quicker to comprehend happier material.
The results indicate that our own facial expressions help the brain make sense of the social world, Havas says.
"Our facial expressions reveal social context by mirroring expressions of those around us, giving us insight into their emotions, states of mind and future actions," he says. The Botox study, he says, suggests that our facial expressions also guide how we interpret language.
When the face's ability to provide feedback is disabled, as in Botox treatment, our understanding is hindered.
The new findings fit with the increasingly accepted theory that aspects of higher thought, such as language, judgment and memory, are shaped by our bodily sensations and movements, says Paula Niedenthal, a psychologist at Blaise Pascal University in Clermont-Ferrand, France, and a leading scholar on the role of the body in emotion. According to this "embodied" view of cognition, which has gained popularity over the last decade or so, the brain makes sense of the world at least partly by simulating action.
June 4, 2010
Botox interferes not only with the ability to display emotions, but also with the ability to understand emotion.