Beyond contempt

Computer program finds “Resting Bitch Face” equally common in men and women


Resting Bitch Face (RBF), a faux-condition said to afflict celebrities like Queen Elizabeth, Kristen Stewart, and Kanye West, is a joking reference to how some people’s neutral facial expressions can come across as expressing annoyance, boredom, or judgment. RBF became famous after a viral mock-PSA about the “condition,” so famous that two behavioral researchers from research and innovation firm Noldus Information Technology, Jason Rogers and Abbe Macbeth, decided to get some scientific clarity on the topic.

To do so, they employed Noldus’s FaceReader, a computer program designed to identify specific expressions, assigning expressions based on eight basic human emotions. When Facereader looked at truly neutral expressions, it registered them as 97 percent neutral, with 3 percent representing minor blips of emotion. But when photos of Kanye West, Kristen Stewart, and Queen Elizabeth were included, the level of emotion doubled to six percent, with one particular emotion, “contempt,” providing the biggest jump. Both the program and people read contempt from minor visual cues, says Macbeth, but where the FaceReader differs from humans is that it perceives RBF in male and female faces in equal measure. “RBF isn’t necessarily something that occurs more in women,” explains Macbeth. “But we’re more attuned to notice it in women because women have more pressure on them to be happy and smiley.”

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *