A new study linking Botox usage with how humans react differently to negative or positive stimuli has just been released by researchers. "There is a long-standing idea in psychology, called the facial feedback hypothesis," says David Havas, University of Wisconsin-Madison psychology PhD candidate and author of the study, showing that Botox use has a significant effect on the link between expression of emotion and the ability to understand language. "Essentially, it says, when you're smiling, the whole world smiles with you. It's an old song, but it's right." The study suggests that when a person is not frowning, the world seems less angry and less sad.
Biofeedback: smile when you're unhappy and soon you will be happy
"Interactions of facial expression, thoughts and emotions have intrigued scientists for more than a century," says Havas. Andreas Hennenlotter of the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany is attributed with pioneering in the use of Botox to test how making facial expressions affect emotional centers in the brain.
How the test was carried out
Forty people were asked to read a series of written statements before treatment, then again two weeks following micro-injections of Botox into the corrugator muscles of the forehead. The statements were angry, sad or happy. Havas measured the participant's ability to understand the sentences by how quickly they pressed a button after reading each statement. Havas says, "We periodically checked that the readers were understanding the questions, and not just pressing the button.”
The results indicated no change in the time needed to understand happy sentences, but after Botox treatment, the participants took more time to read the angry and sad sentences. The time difference is small, but it is significant.
What does all this mean on a day-to-day level?
On a practical level, the study may have profound implications for the cosmetic-surgery profession, says Arthur Glenberg, UW-Madison professor emeritus of psychology and Havas's advisor. "Even though it's a small effect, in conversation, people respond to fast, subtle cues about each other's understanding, intention and empathy. If you are slightly slower reacting as I tell you about something that made me really angry, that could signal to me that you didn't pick up my message. The Havas study broke new ground by linking the expression of emotion to the ability to understand language."
"Language has traditionally been seen as a very high level, abstract process that is divorced from more primitive processes like action, perception and emotion. This study shows that far from being divorced from emotion, language understanding can be hindered when those peripheral bodily mechanisms are interrupted," says Havas.
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