There’s A Scientific Reason Behind Bitchy Resting Face

anna wintour bitchy resting face

by Katie Rosseinsky |
Published on

What do Anna Wintour, Kristen Stewart, Victoria Beckham and even Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth have in common? They’ve all been described as suffering from that very twenty-first century affliction, Bitchy Resting Face (or Resting Bitch Face, if you prefer.)

Best characterised by a default expression that can unintentionally appear bored, judgemental and ever so slightly, well, bitchy to onlookers, the term infiltrated pop culture in 2013, thanks to a genius viral video by Broken People that encapsulated the very, very real BRF struggle.

But what causes our brains to register certain faces as ‘bitchy’ and others as merely expressionless? Behavioural researchers Abbe Macbeth and Jason Rodgers from Noldus Information Technology have toiled long and hard to find the scientific answer to our BRF woes.

Using Noldus’s Face Reader, a tool that maps 500 points onto a human face to assign it a specific expression, the pair assessed a series of expressionless faces, which registered as 97 % neutral, leaving 3 % for ‘blips’ of emotion.

When they assessed pictures of Bitchy Resting Face royalty Kristen Stewart and Kanye West, though, the registered levels of emotion doubled to 6 %. And what was responsible for this leap? An overriding impression of ‘contempt,’ according to Macbeth, who explains: ‘Something in the neutral expression of the face is relaying contempt, both to the software and to us.’

This so-called contempt can be conveyed through tiny signals, like ‘a tightening around the eyes, and a little bit of raising of the corners of the lips – but not into a smile.’ For Rogers, it can be something as tiny as ‘one side of the lip pulled back slightly, the eyes squinting a little.’ Excuse us while we rush to the nearest mirror and re-evaluate our ENTIRE FACES.

Interestingly, the study detected bitchiness equally across the male and female faces surveyed, despite the fact that it’s a condition usually associated with women (after all, ‘bitchy’ does sadly have female connotations.) For Macbeth, ‘[BRF] isn’t necessarily something that occurs more in women, but we’re more attuned to notice it in women because women have more pressure on them to be happy and smiley and to get along with others.’ For a case in point, just think how often your male pals get told to ‘cheer up, love, it might never happen.’

If you fancy a frank assessment of whether you’re suffering from a strong case of Bitchy Resting Face, you can email a ‘neutral’ picture of yourself to Or, you could always stare vacantly at your fellow passengers on your journey home and see how many start crying.

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