Scientists finally have an explanation for resting bitch face and you can blame your parents

Scientists finally have an explanation for resting bitch face and you can blame your parents

From time to time, I'll be having a perfectly delightful day and then, out of nowhere, someone will completely sabotage it by saying the one sentence I don't want to hear: "What's wrong?"

You see, inside I can feel like a ray of sunshine. But I, and many others like me, happen to be afflicted by this irreversible curse, worse than any poisoned apple or 100-year-long sleep: resting bitch face.

If you somehow haven't heard of it before, resting bitch face is defined as a sullen or scowling expression adopted by a person when they are relaxing and not intending to express any emotion at all. It's the thing that leads a person to answer the question "Are you OK?" at least 10 times a day and leads to comments like: "You should smile more."

However, fellow RBF sufferers will be happy to hear that we finally have someone to blame for our turmoil - and someone to refer people to when they try and hug us because they think we "must be having a bad day". Our parents.

Research has shown that our mums and dads are the culprits when it comes to resting bitch face, with a study that took place back in 2015 revealing that having a natural facial expression of contempt could actually be genetic.

The investigation from the American Psychological Association found that people who have two shorter serotonin transporter genes have a tendency to smile or laugh more easily than others. Scientifically known as 5-HTTLPR, the serotonin transporter genes is a monoamine transporter protein that transports serotonin from the synaptic cleft to the presynaptic neuron. It has reportedly been linked to sudden infant death syndrome, aggressive behaviour in Alzheimer disease patients, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Each person receives one serotonin transporter gene from their mother and another from their father, and research has shown that people with two shorter genes will smile more often and may even laugh at jokes that are not funny. But you know exactly what that means for the rest of us who don't have two shorter serotonin genes... Yep, that's right: We smile less often and probably sometimes don't even laugh at jokes that are funny. And chances are, we have a particularly problematic case of resting bitch face. Damn it, genetics.


The study in question reportedly involved 336 people and consisted of three experiments; in two of them, the researchers showed the subjects cartoons or film clips; in the third, married couples were asked to discuss something contentious. Researchers found that people with the genetic variant (the “short allele”) had stronger positive emotional reactions. This followed a previous study which had shown that people with this genetic variant had stronger negative emotional reactions. Claudia Haase, the study’s co-author, claimed that the second study helped "paint a more complete picture of the emotional life of people with the short allele."

So, what about if you have a combination of genes? Researchers found that, while those with two long genes were doomed to have a naturally miserable face for eternity, those with one short gene and one long gene will have moderate expressions AKA they weren't flashing their white gnashers at every opportunity, but they certainly weren't suffering from RBF either. Who'd have thought getting the shorter end of the stick would ever be a win?

It certainly isn't scientist's first delve into what makes a resting bitch face. In an October 2015 study, scientists Abbe Macbeth and Jason Rogers from Noldus Information Technology, a company that develops software for observational and behavioural research, used the company's FaceReader software to analyze the faces of famous faces notorious for wearing less-than-pleased expressions.

Using the faces of celebrities including Kanye West, Kristen Stewart, Anna Kendrick and Queen Elizabeth II, they ran images through FaceReader software which registered the face and gave a percentage of underlying emotion it picked up. On an average reading, the software will register a face at 97 per cent neutral, but there would be about 3 per cent of an underlying expression too. This was where the software peeked under the guise to see if people's faces were subtly showing emotions like sadness, happiness or anger.

The researchers discovered that celebrities who had bored or annoyed looks were showing underlying levels of emotions that are not seen in people who don't have RBF. Reportedly, those afflicted with RBF may show a jump of trace emotions as high as six per cent - and, of course, most of the emotion expressed is contempt.

"We see that people who have this RBF expression [have] double the amount of emotionality expressed," Macbeth said in 2015. In contrast, celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Blake Lively were found to have faces that registered as "happy", even when their faces were neutral.

So, fellow resting bitch face sufferers. It seems that we are the injured party when it comes to genetics. But hey, let's look on the bright side here: there are tonnes of benefits to looking like you're sucking a lemon 24/7. I mean, is it really a bad thing that gross strangers are too terrified to approach you? Or think about this: when old age comes for you and all of your friends, you're less likely to get those dreaded wrinkles because you've barely shown emotion in all of your 70-something years of living. Not to mention, that you've got a great poker face. So go, thrive and prosper, knowing that your parents' genes may have screwed you over, but that you've got the upper hand really.