Stars like Kristen Stewart, Victoria Beckham, Anna Kendrick and even Kanye West are all noted sufferers of the phenomenon known as “resting bitch face.” According to a pair of behavioral scientists, the condition is real.
Urban Dictionary defines “resting bitch face” (RBF) as “a person, usually a girl, who naturally looks mean when her face is expressionless, without meaning to.” An alternate definition also reads: “A phenomenon in which the resting face lacks animation and appears to look bitchy at all times, thus leading people to believe a person must be upset, a snob or a bitch.”
For a study conducted in October 2015 by Noldus Information Technology, which is an international company that develops software for behavioral and observational research, scientists Abbe Macbeth and Jason Rogers looked into what might be behind all of those misinterpreted facial expressions.
Macbeth and Rogers used the company’s FaceReader software to analyze the faces of celebrities like Queen Elizabeth II and some of the aforementioned stars to try and explain RBF.
According to The Washington Post, the software maps 500 points on the human face, then analyzes images to assign expressions based on human emotions happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, disgust, contempt, and neutral.
FaceReader sensed something unwelcoming about mostly neutral expressions of some notable people. Although photos of West, Stewart and Queen Elizabeth did show signs of “contempt,” Macbeth said faces deemed contemptuous by humans were mostly neutral.
“FaceReader is not detecting enough contempt to reflect true contempt, because these faces are not actually displaying contempt,” Macbeth told the Post. “It just looks like contempt to the viewer. Thus, it is the perception of that unconscious, subtle contempt expression that defines RBF.”
The software’s immunity to gender bias also revealed that RBF is suffered equally by men and women.
Macbeth told CNN, “We’ve all heard the anecdotal evidence of people being told to smile more … there’s something that is unconsciously showing up on people’s faces when people think they are just being neutral,” Macbeth said.
Detroit-based plastic surgeon Anthony S. Youn, who suffers from RBF, told CNN multiple factors are behind RBF.
“Gravity combined with genetics can pull our mouths down. As we get older and our skin gets looser and it gives us a permanent frown,” Youn said.
Noldus is currently inviting people to share their photo to find out if they have RBF.
This video for the phenomenon, which is also referred to as “Bitchy Resting Face,” went viral in 2013: