This expression marks people around the world whose neutral face says, “I am not amused”.
To better understand why this peculiar singularity afflicts some and not others, a team of American researchers partnered with Noldus Information Technology, employing a facial expression recognition tool to analyse the many different emotions of the face.
The software revealed that ‘resting b*tch face’ (RBF) is characterised by higher levels of “unconscious, subtle contempt,” and while it may not be intentional, your brain is wired to pick up on it.
Since RBF became popular in 2013, both celebrities and regular citizens of the world have claimed to wear this standoffish expression, and Twilight star Kristen has widely been crowned the phenomonen’s poster girl.
Behavioural researchers Jason Rogers and Abbe Macbeth sought to understand why we perceive some expressions as totally neutral, while others make us uneasy, reports The Washington Post.
The Noldus FaceReader technology is trained with more than 10,000 images to identify specific emotional expressions.
FaceReader scans revealed that all of these faces were linked to a spike in the software’s perceived contempt, which it detects using certain subtle signals, like one side of the lip pulled back slightly, or the eyes squinting a little.
“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,” says Abbe.
The results show contempt across the board for Kanye, Queen Elizabeth, and Kristen Stewart, indicating that RBF applies to all genders.
While the software read the expressions as contemptuous, the researchers explain that the face isn’t truly showing this emotion – that’s just how we perceive it.
“FaceReader is not detecting enough contempt to reflect true contempt, because these faces are not actually displaying contempt. It just looks like contempt to the viewer,’ the authors write.
“Thus, it is the perception of that unconscious, subtle contempt expression that defines RBF. Although that face may not be intentional, the viewer’s brain is wired to analyze, and recognize, when a face is displaying even minute traces of contempt.
“Because contempt is based upon elements of comparison and judgment, viewing this in someone’s face creates a feeling of uneasiness, or uncomfortableness, for the person viewing that face.”