How might we enhance the detection of neutral faces?

Summary: A classmate and I studied how society perceives a neutral face as a Facial Expression Research course project. Our goal was to expose the existence of different types of neutral face, particularly the “Bitchy Resting Face” and investigate what could be done to classify varying neutral expressions.


“Bitchy resting face,” also known as BRF or Resting Bitch Face (RBF), refers to a facial expression which unintentionally appears as if a person is angry or irritated when s/he is not particularly expressing an emotion.

example of BRF (image source)

To study how people perceive neutral faces, we first gave photos of neutral face to a set of participants and asked what facial expression the participants perceived. These photos were then modified to dilute the variables that influenced the participants’ decisions. These were then given to another set of study participants to determine whether the variables actually applied to the perceptions of the neutral faces. Other elements remained unchanged to control any skews that may arise.

Neutral modification sample
Survey result for neutral modification; “O” stands for “original” and “M” stands for “modified”
Anger modification sample
Survey result for anger modification; again, “O” stands for “original” and “M” stands for “modified”

The test results suggested that the Bitchy Resting Face is indeed a quality of neutral face perception that many facial recognition systems may have failed to account for. The recognition system, therefore, needs to enforce possible calibration to achieve a high neutral face detection rate.


Date: February — March 2015

Credits: Ying Dang (co-researcher)

shinyounglucia Sandbox

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Shin Young (Lucia) Choi

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Design @GEHealthcare. @HCDEUW alumni. shinyounglucia.com

shinyounglucia Sandbox

Welcome to my creative space.

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