Why Do You Have Resting Bitch Face? Science Has the Answer

Are you constantly approached by people who ask you, “What are you so irritated about?” or “Why are you angry?” or “Do you hate me?”

When you say no—you were literally just sitting there sipping your coffee—and ask how they came up with such an idea, they respond with, “Oh, you just looked like it.”

You’re not alone. Countless people—even celebrities—suffer from this every year. The diagnosis? Resting Bitch Face, or RBF, as it’s often called.


Jason Rogers and Abbe Macbeth, behavioral researchers at Noldus Information Technology, wanted to determine what makes some more prone to the Resting Bitch Face label.

“We wanted this to be fun and kind of tongue-in-cheek, but also to have legitimate scientific data backing it up,” Macbeth told The Washington Post.

The researchers used Noldus’ FaceReader, a tool that can analyze a human face to assign an expression based on eight basic emotions: happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, disgust, contempt, and neutral.

When the researchers ran the faces of  RBF icons Kristen Stewart, Kanye West and Queen Elizabeth through the FaceReader, they found that instead of total neutrality, the tool was picking up one emotion—contempt—much more than in other people's faces. And even if that contempt was unintentional, the FaceReader identifies the emotion just as we would do.

“Something in the neutral expression of the face is relaying contempt, both to the software and to us,” Macbeth said.

What is revolutionary about this study is not why people have RBF, but whom it affects. Though women are most often cited for having RBF, FaceReader proved that RBF occurs equally in both male and female faces. Turns out calling people out for Resting Bitch Face is more of an indicator of sexism than anything else.

Wondering if you have RBF? E-mail a photo of your most “neutral” expression to Rogers and Macbeth at [email protected], and they'll let you know what the software says.