“Resting B*tch Face” Now Validated with Science


Photo by Caroline Feldman

Author Emily Magyari displays her best RBF

Emily Magyari

“Resting B*tch Face”, also known as “B*tchy Resting Face”, is a condition affecting the facial muscles, causing a typically hostile expression in place of a normal emotionless resting face. This predicament affects legions of people around the world, even some celebrities, such as Kanye West, Kristen Stewart, Anna Kendrick, and even Queen Elizabeth II. The mean or angry look can make you look less approachable and make for some awkward social situations. RBF sufferers have had to deal with these side effects for years, but are now receiving scientific recognition for their anguish.

Behavioral researchers Abbe Macbeth and Jason Rogers from Noldus Information Technology, a company known for innovative approaches to studying behavior in humans and animals, conducted a study to figure out what’s behind Resting RBF and its true impact.

“We wanted this to be fun and kind of tongue-in-cheek, but also to have legitimate scientific data backing it up,” said Macbeth. The project was published by Noldus in October of 2015 and is titled “Throwing Shade: The Science of Resting ‘B*tch’ Face.”

Macbeth and Rogers used FaceReader to study faces that have been said to have RBF. The FaceReader has a database of about 10,000 faces and can read the eight emotions of neutrality, contempt, happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, surprise, and anger through analyzing 500 different points on a face. These emotions are evident on all people, regardless of age, gender, or race.

For a baseline, FaceReader was given emotionless faces to analyze, then the study moved on to notorious resting b*tch faces such as Kanye West, Queen Elizabeth II, and Kristen Stewart to see if the program would notice any differences. The RBFs showed almost four times more contempt in their “neutral” expressions than the average. Contempt is the feeling that a person is beneath you, and is a mixture of anger and sadness. The FaceReader does not read enough contempt to disclose true contempt, it only appears as contempt to observers. This faint expression of contempt is what characterizes RBF.

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

Other RBF recognition has come from David B. Givens, director of the Center for Nonverbal Studies in Spokane, Washington, who calls the condition “blank face” and said in studies, subjects judge a neutral, expressionless face to be “unfriendly.”

Anthony S. Youn, a board certified plastic surgeon in Detroit, also suffers from RBF and said “the biggest predictor of those who have RBF is if your parents have it.” So if you are one of the sufferers of resting b*tch face, you can thank genetics.

Do you suffer from RBF? The researchers are offering to help. Email a photo to [email protected] for an analysis of your expressionless face to determine whether or not you may have this condition or test yourself at http://info.noldus.com/throwing-shade-the-science-of-rbf