the botoxed heart

by nikki meredith

My husband wouldn’t smile at me. To be fair, he, more accurately, couldn’t smile at me. He was hit in the mouth with a hockey stick and required stitches both inside and outside. He’s a long time hockey player so over the years he’s had many injuries – this wasn’t even close to the worst (black eyes, cracked ribs, broken teeth) — but this one was the most painful for me. I had to get through each day without that particular physical manifestation of love and approval from him and it was as effective as an anti-Prozac. I realized that given the choice: no sex for a month; no smile for a week, I’d choose the first. It didn’t matter one wit that he might have been smiling on the inside, my heart hurt.

I thought about this experience recently when I read a New York Times report in about a study that seemed to demonstrate that Botox not only neutralizes how one looks, it neutralizes how one feels, particularly how one feels empathy. At issue is ”embodied cognition” — the way in which facial feedback helps people perceive emotion. In one experiment, women who had been injected with Botox were asked to look at a set of photographs of human eyes and match them with human emotions. Women with Botox were significantly less accurate at decoding both positive and negative facial expressions than the women in the control group. Read the rest of this entry »