(Screenshot via The Cure For Your B*tch Face.)
“Resting Bitch Face” aka RBF, a term used for individuals whose neutral or “resting” faces are often read by others as angry or hostile, is a phrase that exploded on social media and blogs around 2013.
RBF is much more than snarky term, it’s a cultural phenomenon. Despite the use of the word “bitch,” and the loaded history behind telling women to smile, RBF knows no gender, with the most famous examples being Kristen Stewart and Kanye West. Millions of people the world-round are afflicted with various forms of “Resting Bitch Face.” Apparently, there’s also a science behind why neutral expressions are often misread.
Behavioural researchers Jason Rogers and Abbe Macbeth turned to Noldus’s FaceReader to figure out why “Resting Bitch Face” is a thing. Noldus’s FaceReader uses sophisticated software and a database of 10,000 human faces to identify specific facial expressions.
According The Washington Post,
The software, which can examine faces through a live camera, a photograph or a video clip, maps 500 points on the human face, then analyzes the image and assigns an expression based on eight basic human emotions: happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, disgust, contempt, and “neutral.”
To establish a baseline, Rogers and Macbeth first had FaceReader assess a series of genuinely expressionless faces. Those expressions registered about 97 percent neutrality, Macbeth said; the remaining three percent included “little blips of emotion” — a touch of sadness here, a hint of surprise there, but nothing significant.
Rogers and Macbeth plugged in images of West, Stewart, and Queen Elizabeth and noticed that the machine’s perception of contempt when reading their faces quickly spiked.
The two researchers also point out that the use of a machine played a major part in removing any gender bias.
“[…]RBF isn’t necessarily something that occurs more in women, but we’re more attuned to notice it in women because women have more pressure on them to be happy and smiley and to get along with others,” says Macbeth.
Rogers and Macbeth made their research public last fall, and also invite interested readers to submit their own faces for analysis. You can send your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.