Resting Bitch Face (also known as Bitchy Resting Face) was a "thing" long before there was a name for it. The number one symptom is an almost always unintentional look of annoyance or disdain on the victim's face when not talking or even emoting. Sufferers are often unaware of their plight, unsure what causes them to come across as unpleasant or annoyed before they've even opened their mouths. And while there's still no known treatment, researchers have finally started to understand the causes behind RBF.
According to the Washington Post, behavioral scientists Jason Rogers and Abbe Macbeth of the Netherlands-based Noldus Information Technology attempted to determine why some faces come across as completely expressionless, while others seem judgmental or derisive. They conducted a study of thousands of faces using a tool called FaceReader, designed to identify specific facial expressions. Facereader maps 500 points on the human face and then assigns the faces an expression based on the human emotions happiness, sadness, fear, surprise, anger, disgust, contempt, and “neutral.”
Scientists started by inputting "neutral" faces into the reader, and then entered some of the most severe cases of RBF in history (including Queen Elizabeth and Kanye West) to determine why these faces, while their owners make no attempt to emote, seem so, well, bitchy. Of course, besides those two, the syndrome has its own (uneager) poster kids—Kristen Stewart and Victoria Beckham have famously serious cases of it, and even America's most petite sweetheart (petiteheart?) Anna Kendrick has openly admitted to suffering from the syndrome.
The neutral faces registered 97 percent neutrality, with FaceReader detecting just three percent of emotion, but the bitchy faces registered only 94 percent neutral, with the increase in perceived emotion coming from the illusion of "contempt."
Macbeth told the Washington Post that "contempt" was characterized by the lips being pulled back or raised ever so slightly on one side, creating the impression of a sneer, along with an almost imperceptible squinting of the eyes.
But the most fascinating thing that Rogers and Macbeth found was that while women are often thought to the be main sufferers of RBF (Kanye aside), the phenomenon is actually not gender-specific. Since FaceReader is a scientific tool without personal bias, it detected RBF in male and female faces in equal measure. Why, then, are women so overwhelmingly accused of it, while afflicted men are able to fly under the radar? Macbeth explains: "[Smiling is] something that's expected from women far more than it’s expected from men, and there’s a lot of anecdotal articles and scientific literature on that. So RBF 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.”
So go ahead and tell those bitchy men all around you that they'd look so much prettier if they'd just smile! Or don't. Who cares, really.