How Resting Bitch Face Affects You And Sabotages Lives, Says Science

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woman with a scour

I didn't think there was anything left to say about resting b**** face (also known as RBF), but then, academia was all, "B****y resting face is gonna put you behind bars!" Well, I'm paraphrasing.

So, you already know that the human race is full of superficial people who judge you by your appearance — that isn't anything new. But science has given us a look into how resting b**** face affects you.

A 2014 study published in 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.

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

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.

Photo: Figure 1 from 'Social attributions from faces bias human choices' study

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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 RBF 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.

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"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," said 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 GPS app to get around my immediate neighborhood.

That's not to say you should start "smizing" all the time if you have a resting b**** face. It's the onlooker's responsibility not to 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.

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xoJane was an American online magazine from 2011-2016, geared toward women. It was founded by Jane Pratt, the founding editor of Sassy and Jane magazines, and co-published by Say Media.

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