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100 Things You Should Know About People: #66 — Emotions Are Tied To Muscle Movement



Botox is a popular cosmetic procedure to reduce facial wrinkles. Botox is injected into various muscles, for instance in the face, and it paralyzes the muscles thereby causing the wrinkles to “relax”. It’s been known for a while that one of the side effects of Botox treatments are that people can’t fully express emotions (for example, they can’t move the muscles that would show they were angry, or even happy). New research shows another interesting side effect – people who have Botox injections can’t feel emotions either.

Muscles and feeling are tied together — If you can’t move your muscles to make a facial expression you can’t feel the emotion that goes with the expression. So if you have recently received a Botox injection and you go to a movie that is sad, you will not feel sad because you won’t be able to move the muscles in your face that go with feeling sad. Moving muscles and feeling emotions are linked.

Botox injections — Joshua Davis (2010) from Barnard College and his team tested this idea with some research. They injected people with either Botox or Restylane. Restylane is a substance that when injected fills out sagging skin, but does not limit muscle movement like Botox does. Before and after injecting the participants, they showed them emotionally charged videos. The Botox group showed much less emotional reaction to the videos after the injections.

Controlling muscles controls anger — David Havas (2010) gave people instructions to contract specific muscles – the muscles used in smiling. When the participants contracted those muscles they had a hard time generating a feeling of anger. When he instructed them to contract the muscles that are used when you frown, the participants had a hard time feeling friendly or happy.

What do you think? Should we try and get people to smile with something funny while they are at a website because then they will be in a good mood (and more willing to take the action we hope they will take such as buy, register, etc)?

And if you like to read the research:

Davis, Joshua Ian, Senghas, A., Brandt, F., & Ochsner, K. (2010).
The effects of BOTOX injections on emotional experience.
Emotion, 10(3), 433-440.

Havas, D. A., Glenberg, A. M., Gutowski, K. A., Lucarelli, M. J., & Davidson, R. J. (2010). Cosmetic use of botulinum toxin-A affects processing of emotional language. Psychological Science, 21(7), 895-900.


3 responses to “100 Things You Should Know About People: #66 — Emotions Are Tied To Muscle Movement”

  1. Marc Cenedella Avatar

    I’ve been enjoying this whole series. At my job search site, I’ve given the same advice for years — it’s important to be smiling when you are on the phone because your attitude conveys it’s way over the lines: http://www.theladders.com/career-newsletters/find-job-mirror-helps

    In any area of your life where a good attitude is important, “tricking” your body and mind into feeling the behaviors you are modeling is a good strategy to get the most out of yourself.

  2. Leigh Avatar

    As a massage therapist I see the effects of muscle memory first hand — I wonder though, if this emotional numbing extends to stroke or bell’s palsy patients?

  3. […] why did I need Botox? A while back, I read an article (by Susan Weinschenk) about emotions being tied to muscle movement.  It said that one of the side […]

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