Study: Wrinkles make it hard to judge emotions

June 4, 2013

A new study finds wrinkles can affect the way people perceive your emotions.
A new study finds wrinkles can affect the way people perceive your emotions.

As if looking old wasn't bad enough, a new study found that people find it difficult to read the emotions of individuals who have wrinkly faces. Researchers at Penn State University asked a group of study participants to examine 64 faces and rate them based on the emotions they perceived in the images. On average, pictures depicting older adults were rated as more angry or sad compared to the photos of younger people, despite the fact that every face photographed showed neutral emotions, reports LiveScience.

Why the long face?
Carlos Garrido, a doctoral student in social psychology at Penn State, said the issue may be due to the fact that creases around the mouth and forehead may cause people to look as though they're frowning or upset. While the study authors say there needs to be more research conducted to verify their findings, they believe the results of the study are not due to stereotypes people may have about the emotional well-being of older adults.

This is not the first study to examine the link between wrinkles and emotional perception. A previous study conducted by researchers at Humboldt University in Berlin found that younger people had a hard time judging the faces of older adults, and often perceived them to have more "mixed emotions" than similar images of younger people.

An argument for plastic surgery
This study goes to show that people who seek out plastic surgery procedures such as facelifts or Botox injections aren't doing so simply out of vanity. There are real issues associated with early signs of aging. Researchers pointed out that the issue underscored in this most recent study could put older adults at a disadvantage at the doctor's office, for instance, as medical practitioners may falsely assume that seniors are experiencing sadness or depression.

Fortunately, there are many treatments that can help treat wrinkles on the face and neck, according to the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. While facelifts may be the most well-known, others may choose to target the skin hanging down under the chin by undergoing a neck lift. Botox injections can treat wrinkles before they begin to form, while facial fillers can add volume and fill in deep creases around the eyes, mouth and forehead.


The mission of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) includes medical education, public education and patient advocacy. Plastic Surgery News Briefs are summaries of current stories found through various news and magazine outlets that relate to or mention plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures. The views expressed in these news articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASAPS, but are merely published as an educational service to our members and the general public. For additional information on these subjects and other plastic surgery related topics, please go to www.surgery.org

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The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world’s leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body.  ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; active members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and non-surgical aesthetic procedures. International active members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.

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