Wednesday February 03, 2016
Researchers break down the science behind 'Resting Bitch Face'
It's known as "Resting Bitch Face", or "RBF."
A person is sitting around, thinking about nothing in particular and they're accused of looking "bitchy."
"They have what they think is a neutral expression on their face but we as the viewer of that person kind of see that as 'Why does that person look so upset?'" Abbe Macbeth tells As It Happens guest host Tom Harrington.
"It's not necessarily angry, or disgusted, or anything specific but just something in their face that says that person's not happy."
Macbeth is a neuroscientist with Noldus Information Technology. She is using behavioural research software to try to uncover the science behind "RBF."
By using software to scan images of expressionless faces and comparing them to scans of celebrities accused of having "RBF", the team found the algorythm identified the faces that are more likely to show signs of contempt.
"Resting Bitch Face" has been attributed to countless celebrities. Queen Elizabeth frequently has been labeled an RBF-er, along with Victoria Beckham and Kanye West. But Macbeth found that overall the look is attributed to more women than men.
"I think it's because of societal pressure on women," Macbeth explains. "We're trained from early days to kind of 'go along to get along' and that's what society wants to see in women, so women are told 'Why aren't you smiling more? You look a lot prettier when you smile.'"
"It's this kind of passive sexism in a way that gets attributed to women," Macbeth adds. "Whereas men, who are supposed to be, I think, a little more dominant, a little more assertive, are not asked to smile more because that's not something that we expect from them."
But Macbeth says the her study shows that the software is indifferent and reinforces the idea that these judgments are the result of conditioned social norms and gender roles.
"The software doesn't care if you're male or female," Macbeth explains. "It's finding the same levels of contempt, in the same type of facial expression regardless of being male or female."