Resting Bitch Face

Good morning everyone,

It's going to be gorgeous today-sunny and a high of 27C before turning to rain later tomorrow. Wednesday and the rest of the week are looking pretty nice-it'll be a mix of sun and clouds and highs in the low to mid 20s every day.

Queen Elizabeth has it. So does fashion designer Victoria Beckham. And actress Kristen Stewart — poor thing, she’s practically the poster girl.

Among the slew of pop culture icons said to be afflicted with so-called Resting Bitch Face (alternatively known as Bitchy Resting Face), the vast majority are women, though Kanye West is among the male examples. All of them have been mocked by Internet commenters for having a certain unintentional expression when their faces are not in motion  — a look best described as vaguely annoyed, maybe a little judgy, perhaps slightly bored. 

Since the RBF meme took over the Internet in 2013, legions of people have identified the dreaded phenomenon in celebrites, in their own social circles, even in the mirror.

So Jason Rogers and Abbe Macbeth, behavioral researchers with international research and innovation firm Noldus Information Technology, decided to investigate: Why are some faces seen as truly expressionless, but others are inexplicably off-putting? What, exactly, makes us register a seemingly neutral expression as RBF?

“We wanted this to be fun and kind of tongue-in-cheek, but also to have legitimate scientific data backing it up,” Macbeth said.

The researchers enlisted Noldus’s FaceReader, a sophisticated tool engineered to identify specific expressions based on a catalogue of more than 10,000 images of human faces. 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.”

Then they plugged in photos of RBF all-stars Kanye West, Kristen Stewart and Queen Elizabeth. Suddenly, the level of emotion detected by the software doubled to six percent.

One particular emotion was responsible for the jump: “The big change in percentage came from ‘contempt,’” Macbeth said.

And how exactly does a piece of software measure contempt in a face?

It’s in subtle signals, like “one side of the lip pulled back slightly, the eyes squinting a little,” Rogers explained.

Or: “It’s kind of a tightening around the eyes, and a little bit of raising of the corners of the lips — but not into a smile,” Macbeth suggested.

The cues are understated, yet the machine detects and interprets them the same way our human brains do, she said. “Something in the neutral expression of the face is relaying contempt, both to the software and to us.”

Worried that you might have RBF? Now you can find out for sure. After publishing their results in October, Rogers and Macbeth invited members of the public to submit their own faces for analysis. Guys and gals alike are welcome to email photos of their most “neutral” facial expressions to jason@noldus.com, and FaceReader will tell you if you’re actually expressionless — or if you and the Queen have RBF in common.

I see it a lot when I'm out and about. Maybe that's why some people (including me, think Japanese people aren't happy-maybe just a lot of people have resting bitch face...ha ha!

Have a great day!


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