ByKristin Lai, writer at
MP Staff Writer, cinephile and resident Slytherclaw // UCLA Alumna // Follow me on Twitter: kristin_lai
Kristin Lai

Between the pursed lips and slightly squinted eyes, there's something about sporting an expressionless, stoic look that says "Hollywood elite."

Celebrities like Kristen Stewart or the Kardashian-Wests have been long accused of looking unfriendly at events that would usually be a cause for celebration, or at least a smile. No one can rock a grade-A RBF like an A-Lister.

What is an RBF?

These unapproachable looking people on the red carpet share one look, aptly coined by the public as the "Resting Bitch Face" or RBF. With the influx of celebrity photographs at our fingertips in recent years, it was easy for the Internet to quickly point out public figures plagued by this pseudo-disorder.

But RBF isn't a condition that solely affects the rich and famous. Even regular old Joes like you and me — especially me — can be accused of frequently wearing a Resting Bitch Face. Before we move forward, I feel it's important to first note that this affliction isn't necessarily an indication of a person's nature or disposition.

Recently, The Washington Post reported on a study by Noldus Information Technology researchers Jason Rogers and Abbe Macbeth, who decided to look into this phenomenon and figure out just what causes us to recognize an RBF.

The research

Getty Images
Getty Images

By using the Noldus FaceReader "a sophisticated tool engineered to identify specific expressions based on a catalogue of more than 10,000 images of human faces," the software is able to track faces, live cameras, photographs, and video clips.

Then, the program maps and analyzes 500 points on the face, and "assigns an expression based on eight basic human emotions: happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, disgust, contempt, and 'neutral.'"

Noldus Information Technology
Noldus Information Technology

Rogers and MacBeth then used the FaceReader to assess a series of faces deemed "expressionless" to create their baseline at 97% neutrality — with 3% noting small, and largely insignificant traces of emotion.

Noldus Information Technology
Noldus Information Technology

Their team then added a series of celebrity RBF-ers including Kanye West, Kristen Stewart, and Queen Elizabeth, and tracked the changes in the program's results.

What causes an RBF?

When the FaceReader detected these well-known Resting Bitch Faces, the emotion level doubled from 3% to 6%. The report found that the main contributor to the spike was the emotion for "contempt." They also found that these faces aren't actually conveying contempt, but merely giving the appearance of it.

Noldus Information Technology
Noldus Information Technology

According to Rogers and MacBeth contempt looks like “one side of the lip pulled back slightly, the eyes squinting a little," or “a tightening around the eyes, and a little bit of raising of the corners of the lips — but not into a smile."

But that's not all!

In addition to pinpointing just what expression triggers us to find certain faces startlingly unapproachable, they also found it to be a big gender equalizer. As it turns out, RBF knows no gender, and the FaceReader detected traces of RBF equally between males and females.

Do you have an RBF?

If you want to know whether or not you suffer from RBF, Noldus Information Technology is accepting submissions from the public to have their face entered and analyzed in their database. According to The Washington Post:

Guys and gals alike are welcome to email photos of their most “neutral” facal expressions to [email protected], and FaceReader will tell you if you’re actually expressionless — or if you and the Queen have RBF in common.

In the end, when people say "That's just the way my face looks!" we'll know that they have scientific fact backing up their claims. Maybe smiling will reduce the look of contempt and the resulting RBF, but who are we to tell anyone what to do with their faces?


Do you have an RBF?

(Source: The Washington Post, Noldus)


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