Removing the Wrinkles May Remove Perception

Can plastic surgery change the way we perceive feelings? According to new research, people who use Botox or Restalyne to smooth out lines and wrinkles are less likely to interpret the emotions and feelings of others accurately. David Neal, a psychology professor at the University of Southern California and lead author of the research said, “People who use Botox are less able to read others’ emotions.” Neal, who worked with a researcher at Duke University in Durham, N.C., went on to add, “When the facial muscles are dampened, you get worse in emotion perception, and when the facial muscles are amplified, you get better at emotion perception.” The results were similar to previous findings from a study conducted last year at Columbia University by psychologist Joshua Davis. He commented about the recent research and agreed that the findings “would suggest that facial expression is an integral component of what we consider our emotional experience. Certainly the concept is one that fits with the research we did.”

Fillers such as Botox and Restalyne have been popular choices for minimally invasive plastic surgery procedures for nearly twenty years. Most people who receive the injections are very satisfied with the results, and there have been no complaints to surgeons that the procedure has left the patient feeling less perceptive.

People use fillers to increase their sense of self-satisfaction and self-image. By decreasing the visible signs of aging, patients are able to appear physically younger and that transformation can have deep psychological implications. Experts warn patients to think carefully about these new findings before they say goodbye to those frown lines. In a related article, Neal advises people to “consider whether these procedures are having any indirect costs — reducing their ability to empathize and understand people’s emotions.”

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

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  • vanessa


    April 27th, 2011 at 11:11 PM

    did the article mean to say that a person undergoing Botox will have himself or herself changed so much that others will have trouble identifying their facial expressions? Or am I missing something? Because if a person gets Botox done, how can it change his perception of others? Perception of others is a mental thing,isn’t t?!!!

  • Stacy


    April 28th, 2011 at 4:39 AM

    Sorry but this sounds like crap to me. Just because I use Botox does not mean that I cannot read other people’s emotions on their faces! Maybe the people this applies to are those who have had so much plastic surgery that they cannot close their eyelids anymore. Maybe these are people who are very ego centric and would not recognize those emotions anyway because their lives focus too much on them. But for those of us who use fillers and such in just a small amount I really do not think that this applies to all of us across the board.

  • Graham


    May 3rd, 2011 at 8:30 PM

    I wonder if it’s related to the fact that botox is actually one of the deadliest poisons in the world. It could well be that its absorption into the body is having a minor effect on their brain as well as their faces. It’s really not been around long enough to know the long term effects of such treatments.

  • Lynne


    May 5th, 2011 at 7:07 PM

    @Graham: Impossible, Graham. The botox used in medical settings is stripped of much of its innate toxicity, and it causes paralysis of the muscles that allow us to frown and so on, thus smoothing out the skin, not brain damage.

  • Quinn


    May 5th, 2011 at 8:28 PM

    I can see it being hard to read the emotions of a botox user if their more subtle twitches are suppressed, but I’m not seeing how it works in reverse.

  • Bradley


    May 7th, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    @Quinn-I thought the same thing! They just state it and leave it at that. Did they expect not to be pursued for an explanation of why that might be? I’m no doctor but I am not seeing any correlation between the two at all.

  • penelope


    May 7th, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    “…because apparently you have to be able to mimic people’s facial expressions in order to understand them.”

    But if they understood them before, and presumably have grown into adulthood knowing how to read facial expressions, why would they suddenly forget all that? It’s not like they are newborn babes just learning about the world. I think this toxin, and it is a toxin, is affecting their brain and it’s as simple as that.

  • Daisy


    May 8th, 2011 at 7:27 PM

    Can’t we simply learn to accept wrinkles is part of growing older and do so with grace and dignity? Ladies, I hate to break it to you but you’re fooling nobody!

  • thermage


    May 19th, 2013 at 4:10 AM

    This site was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something
    which helped me. Kudos!

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