Since around 2013, the term bitchy resting face (or resting bitch face) has been a part of our lexicon. The term refers to humans whose neutral expressions come across as annoyed or judgmental to others.
Of course, women were the primary culprits because God forbid there’s ever moment where a woman isn’t smiling! However, Kanye West and Jeremy Renner officially entered the fold according to some guilty pleasure/well-vetted sources I happen to peruse. They joined the ranks of some notable resting bitch facers including Kristen Stewart, Cara Delevingne, and Victoria Beckham.
While BRF has been a phenomenon that fueled memes and insecurity over one’s own facial expressions, two behavioral researchers wanted to delve deeper. Is there a scientific reason why someone’s neutral face expression is, for lack of a more polite term, bitchy?
“We wanted this to be fun and kind of tongue-in-cheek, but also to have legitimate scientific data backing it up,” stated Abbe Macbeth.
MacBeth and Jason Rogers set out to find this data using a software program called FaceReader developed by Noldus Information Technology. With a database of 10,000 images of human faces, FaceReader analyzes 500 different points on a person’s face to determine the emotion the person is feeling. There are eight total emotions including happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, disgust, contempt and neutral.
MacBeth and Rogers first used a bunch of expressionless (non-bitchy?) faces. These scored 97 percent in neutrality. MacBeth noted that FaceReader did detect “little blips of emotion”, which counts for that three percent. So perhaps there’s a slight emotion but it’s inconsequential.
Then MacBeth and Rogers inputted the faces of Kristen Stewart, Kanye and the queen of resting bitch face: the actual Queen (as in Queen Elizabeth). Suddenly, those little blips of emotion became slightly larger blips. These images scored 94 percent in neutrality. The predominant emotion FaceReader detected was contempt.
So why does FaceReader think these faces percolate scorn? It could have to do with squinting or the way the lips are pulled back or lifted up (but not as a smile).
Interesting enough, FaceReader did detect Bitchy Resting Face equally in men and women. So the idea that this phenomena is a predominately female characteristic is pretty much based on social conventions.
If you’re worried you have RBF, you can send an expressionless image to Jason@noldus.com for analysis, otherwise you can always just avoid people who use the term Bitchy Resting Face.
Source: The Washington Post