Recent research has uncovered the cause of the Resting Seriousface and it’s not pretty.
Be warned: Your smile is public property
The resting serious face, otherwise known as the Resting Bitchy Face (RBF) for the serious faced women and Resting Asshole Face (RAF) is for the dour men out there.
A recent research project was completed by scientists at the Noldus Information Technology firm using a facial recognition program that has a database of over 10,000 faces. The computer analyzes 500 points on the human face and assigns an emotional tag to each face: happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, disgust, contempt, and “neutral.”
Researchers inputted pictures of RBF/RAF elite that include Kanye West, Kristen Stewart and Queen Elizabeth. The computer found that a serious disposition is primarily caused by the emotion of contempt.
It’s in the subtle signals, like “one side of the lip pulled back slightly, the eyes squinting a little.” Contempt is not a compliment: it’s a serious emotion, defined as disdain, disregard or even scorn.
Body language is all about the subtleties. The computer analyzes the face and can detect the slightest facial responses. A neutral face actually 97% neutral and 3% emotion. When someone with a resting seriousface has their expression analyzed, the emotional level doubles to 6%, mainly due to what the computer defines as contempt.
The Noldus facial recognition software accurately reads expressions 85-88% of the time, which is the same as most humans. So go ahead and frown because judgment has just been outsourced.
We trust the smiley faces
Humans and supersmart computers get facial expressions wrong 15% of the time. How can we conclude what is inside of a person based on being pretty close?
Facial expressions are misinterpreted all of the time by humans and machines. Something as ‘universal’ as a smile can reflect true happiness and joy, but it can also be caused by embarrassment, deceit, grief, feeling frightened, flirting, being horrified, lying and even feeling sad. When we let computers think for us, we forget that there is more to a face than a smile.
To be honest, I am not a fan of Kanye West. His RAF is priceless and I happen to agree with the computer that he is contemptuous. It’s fun to imagine him sitting in one of his million dollar homes, thinking about how great he is and how much the world needs him. Truth is, I don’t know the guy and I can’t begin to understand who he really is on the inside.
Psychologists call this facial bias: we judge others solely based on their facial expressions.
A Psychology Today article discussed face-ism, citing Dr. Christopher Olivola, professor at Carnegie Mellon Univeristy. Olivola studies decision making and facial bias.
Judging by the Facial Expressions
Sorry to burst your bubble, but you and I are judging all of the time. And we make significant judgments solely based on tiny facial cues. In a previous article on the phenomenon of the Resting Asshole Face, I found very few men who admitted to being an RAF. Entire communities, however, exist for the Resting Bitchy Face women.
Do you get the discrepancy? A serious faced woman is assumed to be a bitch, and will be pressured to smile and look happy. It’s time to own up to it: our society judges serious women. Looking at famous, successful, attractive women and imagining them to be contemptuous feeds something dark in the hearts of some people.
“This…is also consistent with socio-cultural gender norms which, in many cultures, require that women appear submissive and vulnerable, and men dominant and confident. Individuals whose behavior and appearance is consistent with these gender norms tend to be considered most attractive, so a proud man and happy woman may be valued for reasons of gender-norm consistency, as well as for their potentially high mate value.
The judgment comes from a pervasive social pressure on women to appear submissive. A woman who displays a pleasant smiling face conveys submissiveness. Whereas a more serious and confident woman will be asked to smile and may even be shamed for her seriousface (aka Resting Bitchface). Ironically, a serious man will not be expected to smile, because his seriousness is (wait for it) attractive.
Pressuring women to smile, calling them bitches if they are confident or proud is nothing more than social shaming and an attempt to manipulate their behavior.
A serious faced man or woman is just that: serious on the outside and free to be who they are. Why does it need to be more than that? As if a label can define a person and their entire experience.
Some people think that Kanye West is arrogant and full of himself. But to his fans, they think he is talented and confident. Who is right? Only Kanye knows.
Without knowing it, we are engaging in what I call Smile Porn: The preference for happy, smiling people; pressuring others to act happy; idolizing the smiling and successful people in our society while isolating and judging the serious. At its heart, Smile Porn is a refusal to accept others for who they are as opposed to who we want them to be.
If you are serious faced, The Good Men Project is your tribe. We want you. We are having the conversation that no one else is having. Join us, and join me in the comments.