SCIENCE SAYS: Bitchy Resting Face Could Legitimately Sabotage Your Life

Face-ism is a thing.
Publish date:
October 23, 2014
science, studies, research, bitchy resting face, dominance, extroversion, Competence, Trustworthiness

I know, I didn't think there was anything left to say about bitchy resting face, either. But then, on Tuesday, academia was all, "Bitchy resting face is gonna put you behind bars!"

Well, I'm paraphrasing.

So, you already know that the human race is full superficial people who judge you by your appearance -- that ain't news. However, a new study published in the latest issue of your favorite magazine and mine, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, shows that people not only assume things about your personality -- things like trustworthiness, competence, extroversion and dominance -- based on facial traits beyond your control, but they make important decisions about you based on those facial traits, too.

Those decisions could be anything from a prospective partner not approaching you at a bar, an interviewer not seriously considering you for a job, or even a jury convicting you of a crime.

The study authors call this form of prejudice "face-ism." You know, because it rhymes with racism and that's...cute? And shouldn't it be spelled "facism" then? Or does that look too similar to fascism?

Anyway, science is still working on figuring out exactly which facial variations make a voter's brain think, "I'd like to elect this competent-faced fellow" or a juror's brain think, "Send that mean-looking lady to the slammer," but the study offers some visual examples of faces that unwittingly imply different personality traits.

What I take from this chart is that if the edges of your mouth and the inner ends of your eyebrows naturally angle down -- an equation for resting bitch face if there ever was one -- people are going to think you're a domineering, stupid introvert. And if what these researchers say is true, it could cause people to make unfair decisions about you.

"Although we would like to think our judgments and choices are rational, impartial, consistent, and solely based on relevant information, the truth is that they are often biased by superficial and irrelevant factors," says the study's lead author, Christopher Olivola of Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business. "This is a troubling human tendency that needs to be corrected, or at least mitigated, because faces are not valid predictors of a person's traits."

Duh, right? But in all seriousness, it helps to be aware of these tendencies as both a viewer of faces and a person with a face. In addition to keeping in mind that someone who "looks mean" could actually be a sweetheart, you can also remind yourself that your face may cause strangers to make inferences that aren't accurate.

For example, something about my face says, "This person knows which train you should take," to tourists at subway stations even though I need the HopStop app to get around my immediate neighborhood.

That's not to say you should start smizing all the time if you have resting bitch face. It's onlookers' responsibility to not make assumptions about your personality based on the sum of your face parts. Knowing this information simply allows you to note how you may be perceived and take the resulting treatment with a grain of salt.

Unless that treatment is being falsely convicted of a crime, and then maybe you'll want to show this study to your defense attorney.

What impression do you think your face gives? Is it accurate?