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New Study Says Botox Impairs Ability To Understand Emotions of Others

LOS ANGELES (CBS) – A new study says that although Botox injections may smooth wrinkles, it appears it they may also lessen a person's ability to understand the emotions of others.

A new study from University of Southern California (USC) and Duke University finds that people injected with Botox may have trouble telling what other people are thinking and feeling.  That's because people understand emotions partly by mimicking facial expressions.

"People who use Botox are less able to read others' emotions," said USC psychology professor David Neal.  "When you mimic you get a window into their inner world.  When we can't mimic, as with Botox, that window is a little darker."

The study, led by Neal and Tanya Chartrand, marketing and psychology professor at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, was published Friday in the journal, Social Psychological and Personality Science.  It explains the theory that humans decode each other's expressions partly by simulating the perceived expression in their own facial musculature.

Botox paralyzes muscles to remove wrinkles, but those so-called signs of aging also hold clues into a person's frame of mind.  Crow's feet denote disgust or a genuine smile.  Lines on the forehead denote fear and the valleys in between the eyebrows, worry.

"It's somewhat ironic -- people use Botox to function better in social situations," Neal said. "You may look better but you could suffer because you can't read other people's emotions as well."

Researchers compared people who had the Botox procedure against a control group who had a cosmetic procedure that does not reduce muscular feedback.  Future areas of study may include Botox's effect on people's ability to lie successfully and communicate effectively with their significant other.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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