« CBS Ruthlessly Outs "Out of the Closet"!!! | Main | Obama to Revive FDR's 2nd Bill of Rights »

October 28, 2008

Self Absorbed

God hath given you one face and you make yourselves another.

- Hamlet, 3. 1

Fascinating thought: does Botox make us more beautiful, but less human - and humane?

Mimicking faces is a deep instinct in humans—babies start doing it days after birth. And our ancestors were probably making these faces for millions of years. Earlier this year, Marina Davila Ross of the University of Portsmouth and her colleagues reported the first observation of other apes quickly mimicking faces. When orangutans play with each other, they sometimes open their mouths in the ape equivalent of a smile. Observing 25 orangutans at play, Ross found that when an orangutan sees another orangutan make an open-mouth expression, it tends to do the same in less than half a second.

We do not mimic faces simply as a side-effect of looking at other people. Experiments show that mimicry actually helps us understand what other people are feeling. Harvard University psychologist Lindsay Oberman and her colleagues demonstrated this effect with little more than a pen.

Oberman had volunteers bite down on a pen and then look at a series of faces. They had to pick the emotion they thought the faces were expressing. The volunteers could recognize sad faces and angry ones with the same accuracy as test subjects who did not have pens in their mouths. But they did a worse job of recognizing happy faces.

Biting a pen, it just so happens, requires you to use the same muscles you use to smile. Because the smiling muscles were active throughout the experiment, Oberman’s subjects apparently couldn’t feel themselves start to mimic happy faces. Without that feedback, they had a more difficult time recognizing when people were happy.

Oberman and a growing number of other psychologists believe that we empathize by mimicking faces. By putting ourselves in other people’s places, we understand what they’re feeling. To investigate how facial mimicry helps us empathize, Leonhard Schilbach of the University of Cologne and his colleagues recently made a brain-scanning breakthrough. They had volunteers watch movies of computer-animated people turning toward them and smiling while scientists scanned their brain activity and tracked their facial muscles. Later the researchers examined the muscle recordings to pinpoint the precise instant when the volunteers mimicked the faces. Then they looked at how the brains of the volunteers were acting at that instant.

During unconscious facial mimicry, Schilbach discovered, several regions of the brain become active. One of those, the left precentral gyrus, becomes active when people get the urge to move their facial muscles (such as when a song makes them sad). Other regions (the right hippocampus and the posterior cingulate cortex) become active when we have emotional experiences, helping to retrieve emotional memories. Another part of the brain that becomes active during facial mimicry (the dorsal midbrain) relays emotional signals to the rest of the body, bringing on the physical feelings that go along with emotions, like a racing heartbeat.

When humans mimic others’ faces, in other words, we don’t just go through the motions. We also go through the emotions.

I will never forget sitting in my senior history class one day. Shortly after class, the teacher approached me and said something a bit odd.

He said, "It's very distracting, having you sit in front. The number of expressions that flit across your face is really quite amazing - I can see your mind is racing a mile a minute."

I guess I do that when I'm trying to understand things. Also, I'm not always terribly good at hiding what I'm thinking.

This weekend, I got yet another coupon from the local 'surgical arts' clinic here in western Maryland. They must target 'women of a certain age'. I was laughing about it with my husband: every time I get one of those durned things, it becomes a little more tempting to ring them up and say, "Sure - take 10 years off my face. Make me look young again." I always think how nice it would be for my husband to see a younger, prettier version of me. That sort of thing seems to be so important to men, though of course he never says so.

But I always stop and think that whatever lines are on my face are my history. They are the story of my life - every emotion I've felt, every tear I've cried, every time I've laughed out loud has etched a tiny trace into my face for everyone to see. Perhaps that's a foolish way of looking at it. Be that as it may, I can never quite bring myself to pick up the telephone.

Maybe this is why.

Posted by Cassandra at October 28, 2008 08:50 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.villainouscompany.com/mt/mt-tb.cgi/2494

Comments

A man has scars, and poorly healed once-broken bones, too. In a way, it would be nice if we could wipe these things away, and be as strong and unbowed as we were when we were young; and in another way, the humility that comes with them is a valuable gift and a true piece of wisdom.

Posted by: Grim at October 28, 2008 09:31 AM

That sort of thing seems to be so important to men, though of course he never says so.

Because it's *not* important to him.

Husbands view their wives through eyes that sublimate the retinal image to the mental one that is forever young and beautiful.

We're hopeless oinkers that way...

Posted by: BillT at October 28, 2008 09:32 AM

I am not sure our husbands see us the way we are even when we are young :p

Every now and then my husband tells me something that just makes me shake my head in wonderment. When my boys got married, I told them that your wedding vows amount to a promise to view the other person through rose colored glasses, til death do you part. If you can do that, you really do get the best of them.

I think maybe it is when contempt creeps in that love is destroyed. It is a good promise, and men are (I think) faithful at carrying it out so long as we continue to believe in them, as they well deserve we should.

Posted by: Cass at October 28, 2008 09:42 AM

Christ still had the scars of His crucifixion in His hands and feet, as well as the scar in His side where the spear had been thrust. It was proof to His disciples that He had indeed, died and was resurrected.

I think of my scars, laughlines and so forth as part of my life story; to remind me of what I have gone through, and what it took to get me through. I see the same lines in the Engineer's face. We understand.

Yeah, I would love to have the 'right' shade for my hair, and better eyesight. But that is about it.

Posted by: Cricket at October 28, 2008 10:05 AM

When humans mimic others’ faces, in other words, we don’t just go through the motions. We also go through the emotions.

An interesting facet of empathy and perhaps a way to increase empathy in human beings.

I discussed this subject of empathy in one of Grim's comment sections here. Link

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 28, 2008 10:47 AM

He said, "It's very distracting, having you sit in front. The number of expressions that flit across your face is really quite amazing - I can see your mind is racing a mile a minute."

Why does that not surprise me, Cass.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 28, 2008 10:48 AM

Would this professor prefer the opposite? That being a botoxed expression of rapt, frozen acceptance as you wait in breathless anticipation for his next word? and the next? and the next?

Would he have been distracted anyway?

Posted by: vet66 at October 28, 2008 11:58 AM

I wouldn't do it for the lines, but in your case it might help with your migraines.

Posted by: Russ at October 28, 2008 12:15 PM

"Sure - take 10 years off my face. Make me look young again."

Do they have a 35 year plan? That way, except for the gray hair and love handles, I could look really young!

Posted by: spd rdr at October 28, 2008 12:26 PM

What Grim and Bill said...

The young objet d'art may attract the prolonged glance, but the masterpiece that required much time and effort to reveal holds the heart.

Now where did I leave my oink card?

Posted by: bthun at October 28, 2008 01:01 PM

The number of expressions that flit across your face is really quite amazing - I can see your mind is racing a mile a minute."


Having met you, I agree. Not that it's distracting - it's not - but you literally can see your mind racing.


As for botox/plastic surgery/etc., I say no. You're right - every line and imperfection is part of my history and to deny that is to deny who I am. I can't do that.

Posted by: HomefrontSix at October 28, 2008 01:19 PM

I wouldn't do it for the lines, but in your case it might help with your migraines.

Yeah, that's the temptation Russ :)
It's about the only thing except acupuncture I haven't tried! And I could claim I did it for my health!

*rolling eyes*

Me neither, HF6. I just can't. I think maybe the best antidote to time is a healthy sense of humor. What else are you going to do? Might as well laugh :)

Do they have a 35 year plan? That way, except for the gray hair and love handles, I could look really young!

mr rdr:

Allow me to irritate you once again (which seems to be my main function in life - let's face it: it's a gift :)

Contrary to the imaginings of the male of the species, most women don't particularly care for callow youths. Men are like wine: barely drinkable when young, but as they age they acquire complexity, character and depth. No sensible woman buys a bottle of wine for the way the bottle will look on her table. Rather, she looks at the vintage and where the grapes were grown to judge the sweetness of what lies within.

/flouncing away

Posted by: Cassandra at October 28, 2008 02:31 PM

"...every emotion I've felt, every tear I've cried, every time I've laughed out loud has etched a tiny trace into my face...

That's a "creative" spin. And you thought you couldn't write fiction. Now all you need is a good analogy to *paint* a vivid mental image.......um,......let's see.....
Oh, I know! How 'bout -- 'a desert plateau airbrushed by the sands of time'.....no, too dry.....'a shallow, rocky creek babbling timelessly along, every ripple and current dancing in an ever-changing myriad on a crystal-clear surface'. No, too wet.....
Well, give me time, I'll come up with something.
heh
0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at October 28, 2008 02:39 PM

Watch it.

Or I'll break out The Butt Book :p

Posted by: Cassandra at October 28, 2008 02:41 PM

...and I can't write fiction. I so suck at it... worse than Pile On, if that were possible, which I'm not sure it is.

I'm an essayist. I leave the fiction to you and spd. You guys are the artists.

I'm the boring linear type.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 28, 2008 02:43 PM

"That sort of thing seems to be so important to men, though of course he never says so." I'm afraid I have to respectfully diagree with you here. I think that's more of a womans obsession. Perhaps it's a factor when looking at a woman for the first time, but in the case of husband and wife we see you as you've always been. Those old pictures look like some child we once knew, not the lovey wife we've always known.

Posted by: Pogue at October 28, 2008 02:47 PM

Pogue, to be fair to my husband that statement wasn't based on anything he has ever said :)

I think I was thinking more of a lot of the ugly things I have read over at Ace's place, or Dr. Helen's. I suppose I am naive, but I never realized there were so many guys willing to say ugly things about their wives.

And when you read things like that it is only natural to worry a bit. It shakes up your faith that the world is the way you always thought it was. I am a person who prefers to think the best, especially when I have little control over an outcome.

But when I see such cynicism it shakes me, sometimes.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 28, 2008 03:20 PM

By the way, don't get me wrong. I like Ace. Very much, in fact.

He is not only a smart guy, but a genuinely nice person (though he would probably hate to cop to that). This is probably more a comment on me than anything else. There are just a lot of things I did not realize about life, I guess.

Even at my age! :)

Posted by: Cassandra at October 28, 2008 03:46 PM

Now where did I leave my oink card?

Always the gentleman :)

You can always tell a Navy man. He can be counted upon to say the kind thing in every situation.

Posted by: Nancy Hopkins' Ghost at October 28, 2008 03:55 PM

No sensible woman buys a bottle of wine for the way the bottle will look on her table.

"Sensible" was on my list of list of "must haves" is a woman - right after "have a pulse." And no woman with a pulse would buy a bottle of wine that looks like it has been repeatedly run over by a cement truck sporting studded tires. That's why we men charm y'all pretty ladies while we're still callow youths.

Posted by: spd rdr at October 28, 2008 04:17 PM

No sensible woman buys a bottle of wine for the way the bottle will look on her table.

"Sensible" was on my list of "must haves" in a woman - right after "have a pulse." And no woman with a pulse would buy a bottle of wine that looks like it has been repeatedly run over by a cement truck sporting studded tires. That's why we men charm y'all pretty ladies while we're still callow youths.

Posted by: spd's editor at October 28, 2008 04:19 PM

"Ahhhhh....." [you'll have to imagine the disgustingly effete look]

"The rare Irish grape: saucy and bold, yet suggesting an elusive hint of caramel beneath the surface... that is, if one can survive the tartness."

Posted by: The Wine Spectator at October 28, 2008 04:54 PM

I tried an experiment once: I grinned at a baby, who grinned back. The next time I saw the little fellow, his face lit up like a Christmas tree and he grinned.

That made my day. Even more so now that babies are no longer a commodity at Chez Engineer.

Posted by: Cricket at October 28, 2008 06:16 PM

I can never resist making faces at babies. I love seeing them at the supermarket - especially in the checkout line. It's great fun playing peekaboo with them while you're waiting for the cashier.

I love it when they flirt with you.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 28, 2008 06:22 PM

"That sort of thing seems to be so important to men, though of course he never says so." I'm afraid I have to respectfully diagree with you here. I think that's more of a womans obsession. Perhaps it's a factor when looking at a woman for the first time, but in the case of husband and wife we see you as you've always been. Those old pictures look like some child we once knew, not the lovey wife we've always known.

Beautiful. But that's the problem, isn't it... we have to get them when we're young...

Posted by: FbL at October 28, 2008 08:47 PM

That's what I worry about, FbL. I'm no longer the young, thin thing I was in my early 20s. However, on the bright side, I have had several people tell me - unprovoked - that they thought I was significantly younger than I actually am. That can only be a good thing, right?

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 28, 2008 09:51 PM

Well ladies, my sister in law met my brother in law in their mid-thirties :)

Posted by: Cassandra at October 28, 2008 10:15 PM

Well, I'm a little bit past that point, though I've not hit 40. This past June was 20 years since I graduated high school.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 28, 2008 10:20 PM

"...I always stop and think that whatever lines are on my face are my history. They are the story of my life - every emotion I've felt, every tear I've cried, every time I've laughed out loud has etched a tiny trace into my face for everyone to see."

Last time I saw your face (last year) it looked perfectly fine...for any age, not just whatever yours currently is. Just sayin'...

Posted by: camojack at October 29, 2008 01:19 AM

That article triggered the memory of one I read about "mirroring" in the brain where if you see someone move their arm, your brain will light up a little like you were moving your own arm.

This was highlighted as one the areas where those with autism don't "mirror" other's actions, thus not understanding them as well.

Posted by: Donna B. at October 29, 2008 02:07 AM

Breaking news -- Tragedy on the set of the Cartoon Network when Sponge-Bob self-absorbed.

Film at eleven...

Posted by: BillT at October 29, 2008 03:58 AM

I think this: "That sort of thing seems to be so important to men, though of course he never says so." has been well covered. But yeah, y'all worry about that FAR more than we do. My wife complains about gray hairs... I can see them if she points them out. She complains about wrinkles... can't say I've noticed. I look at her ALL THE TIME, and her 'imperfections' don't really seem evident until she really points them out. Is that just "wedding goggles"? Hell, I don't know. It's not like I've been married before.

As for Botox specifically... who the heck thought it's a great idea to inject a lethal poison into your face. Yeah, paralyzing your facial muscles can make you look younger... sort of (personally, I think it makes folks look waxy and inhuman). But how is this REALLY different than women who consumed arsenic in order to look paler? Seriously... it's dumb.

Youth is attractive, when you're young. I see a pretty girl today (at my decrepit old age of 36) and that's exactly what I see... a GIRL. Not a woman. Below the age of 25, I'm sorry... you girls are too insane to deal with. You don't know what you want, you don't understand men in the slightest (which is ridiculous as we're so easy to figure out, it's dumb), you don't understand yourselves (but we're supposed to KNOW what you're thinking)... girls, while pretty, are more trouble than they're worth.

It's telling that my wife was 27 when I met her. All the foolish little games that I had to put up with with the girls I had been dating, she had no interest in. She knew what she wanted, and actually could communicate that. Sure, she had a few 'girl lapses' (which now are funny stories), but for the most part, she was a woman. And that's a HELL of a lot more attractive.

Posted by: MikeD at October 29, 2008 11:27 AM

When I was a little girl, I used to love to touch my grandmother's wrinkled hands. I liked that while they looked rough and craggy, but that they were soft to the touch and warm. I always wanted to grow up and have the same such wrinkles.

When my now-husband and I were looking at houses to buy 10-12 years ago, we met a couple in their early eighties who had to sell their home. He was getting too old to take care of it and she was concerned for his health. She was so beautiful - her face was full of soft, papery wrinkles and when she smiled she was more beautiful than any other woman I could think of. We eventually bought their house and I think to myself - those two lived here and grew old. Now I get to do the same - I wonder if I will look at beautiful as she did with as many wrinkles.

Is it more self-absorbed to love what you have or to want to change it?

Posted by: Val at October 29, 2008 12:15 PM

Val, I don't know if it's *self-absorbed* or not, but, IMHO, happiness lies in wanting (and loving) what you have.

Posted by: DL Sly at October 29, 2008 12:23 PM

Couldn't agree more.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 29, 2008 12:29 PM

> Fascinating thought: does Botox make us more beautiful, but less human - and humane?

Botox always makes me think of Katherine Helmond in Terry Gilliam's "Brazil".

Who the hell are these stupid women fooling? I have news for you: YOU CAN TELL WHEN SOMEONE IS TOXING. It's just as bloody obvious to anyone looking at you as a bad comb over is.

.

Posted by: OBloodyhell at November 1, 2008 08:41 AM

"[Regarding 'She who Used to Be the Beautiful Heaulmiere'] Attend me. Anybody can look at a pretty girl and see a pretty girl. An artist can look at a pretty girl and see the old woman she will become. A better artist can look at an old woman and see the pretty girl she used to be. But a GREAT artist -- a master -- and that is what Auguste Rodin was -- can look at an old woman, portray her EXACTLY as she is... and force the viewer to see the pretty girl she used to be... and more than that, he can make anyone with the sensitivity of an armadillo, see that this lovely young girl is still alive, not old and ugly at all, but simply prisoned inside her ruined body. He can make you feel the quiet, endless tragedy that there was never a girl born who ever grew older than eighteen in her heart... no matter what the merciless hours have done to her. Look at her, Ben. Growing old doesn't matter to you and me; we were never meant to be admired -- but it DOES to them."
- Robert A. Heinlein, 'A Stranger in a Strange Land' (Unabridged) -


I think Heinlein has it part right.

To be honest, I don't think anyone, in their "heart of hearts", ever really gets older than, oh, Twenty-two.

This is why men do silly things like "trading in" a mature, intelligent, and resourceful wife for a hot young chippie on his arm or buy sports cars, or a motorcycle, which they've never wanted before.

In both men and women, there's always a strong desire to be able to say "Hey, I haven't lost it!"

Accepting age gracefully is still the best attitude. I think one of the biggest tricks to life is to never forget that "The Graveyards are Filled with Indispensable Men".

Posted by: OBloodyhell at November 1, 2008 08:53 AM

...one of the biggest tricks to life is to never forget that "The Graveyards are Filled with Indispensable Men".

But the biggest trick of all is to realize that there's always room for *more*...

Posted by: BillT at November 1, 2008 08:57 AM

That is a lovely quote, OBH.

It's funny: I am usually not able to see when people have had plastic surgery, or even (frankly) when they are dying their hair or things like that. I was in my mid thirties before I even realized how many older women (most) DO dye their hair!

My Mom never did. Her hair went from blonde to brunette to a lovely salt and pepper to a really beautiful shimmering silver. She always wore it up in a French twist when I was growing up (she still does). Maybe because she never colored her hair, it never occurred to me that other women did, even though I saw hair dye in the supermarkets and knew that there were colorists at the salons. I cut my own and my sons' hair for years, so I wasn't really that aware of that sort of thing.

I think if you don't grow up in a house full of girls, maybe you aren't so into that stuff. I love fooling around with makeup, but things like having your nails done and going to salons and spas and that sort of thing are just totally foreign to my experience. I can go in and have my hair cut now, but I still get turned off by all the nonsense they want you to buy and do. It just seems like a lot of folderal for no reason. When I was in California, one of the young enlisted wives I worked with told me she regularly spent $160 a month just on her hair and nails (this is not including make-up, clothes, shoes, etc). She was adorable, so it was money well spent.

But I was just floored. She would have been pretty without a trace of makeup or a fancy haircut.

I couldn't imagine spending that much with the amount we make, much less trying to get by on their salary. But I think people have different priorities and that's the thing about living in a free country. The thing is, she was shocked to hear I had never been to a fancy salon and wouldn't consider spending that kind of money on my hair, etc. But maybe that's why I look the way I look and she looks the way she does :p As I said, she was pretty cute. And I loved her hair - it was exactly the way I've imagined doing mine a million times.

I just wouldn't be willing to spend that much time or money to have mine look like that. I guess I'm cheap!

Posted by: Cassandra at November 1, 2008 09:31 AM

The thing is, she was shocked to hear I had never been to a fancy salon and wouldn't consider spending that kind of money on my hair, etc.

So, in odder words, she couldn't get over the fact you looked so damn' good *naturally*...

Posted by: BillT at November 1, 2008 09:39 AM

Lemme guess -- now you'll do a post on hair stylists and blame *me* for it...

Posted by: BillT at November 1, 2008 09:42 AM

"I guess I'm cheap!

Well, that's what *I've heard* it says in on the men's room wall.....

(See, Bill, I didn't use your name.)

Posted by: Snarkammando at November 1, 2008 02:34 PM

Geez, sex-and-relationships *again*...

Posted by: BillT at November 1, 2008 04:00 PM

she couldn't get over the fact you looked so damn' good *naturally*...

Bill, as much as I'd love to think that was the case, I think it's more likely she was surprised I'd never been to a fancy salon in my lifetime :p

I wouldn't have told the story at all if I'd thought that was what she meant.

I'm a LOT older than she is. Younger girls tend to be more fashion conscious than women my age. I don't think it was a direct comparison so much as a reflection on the different ways we were raised. She was raised with the assumption that you have to do all those things to attract and keep a man and in my world, that was not something my Mom ever talked about or taught me by example. It wasn't that there was anything wrong with it. It just wasn't on my event horizon, that's all.

And I don't know enough about hair stylists to do a post on them. Ask Sly - she's seen me. I wear my hair up and it's not styled any great fancy way. I guess it looks OK but I don't have it "done".

But she is right - I'm cheap :p

Posted by: Cassandra at November 1, 2008 06:36 PM

Ask Sly - she's seen me.

And I have the pictures to prove it.

Which, btw, *could* be had........for the right price.
heh
0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at November 1, 2008 08:30 PM

"Ask Sly - she's seen me.

And I have the pictures to prove it.

Which, btw, *could* be had........for the right price.
heh
0>;~}

That reminds me of my old dad. The things he'd say to me...

Posted by: Eyegor at November 1, 2008 08:44 PM

Which, btw, *could* be had........for the right price.
heh

As exhausted as I remember being when we met, the retribution would be horrible, Sly.

Don't you dare! We wouldn't want Bill to find out that I'm a doddering old granny. It'll put him off his feed... :p

Posted by: Cassandra at November 1, 2008 10:05 PM

0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at November 2, 2008 02:16 AM

Don't forget that John took pix during that bloggie shindig.

I also have The Bomb.

I even have one of Doc Lady Sly in my portfolio...

Posted by: BillT at November 2, 2008 03:22 AM

Post a comment

To reduce comment spam, comments on older posts are put into moderation 5 days after the last activity. Comments with more than one link also go into moderation. If you don't see your comment after posting it, try refreshing the screen. If you still don't see it, your comment is probably in the moderation queue.




Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)