The “Not Face” Is a Universal Language, Researchers Say

The Not Face―that look of boredom or strong disapproval that is many a person’s neutral face―was only certified A Real Thing by scientists in October 2015. Now, new research says the facial expression transcends barriers between different cultures.


In a study conducted by Ohio State University, native speakers of English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and American Sign Language all interpreted negative feelings with what researchers dubbed the “Not Face.” The study, published in the May issue of Cognition, was inspired by a theory from Charles Darwin, who believed conveying aggression and danger were assets for the propagation of the human race.

Researchers tagged images of students speaking frame by frame to see which facial muscles moved when they disagreed. Then, computer algorithms found commonalities in three distinct muscle movements: furrowed brows, raised chin, and pressed-together lips (a combo of “anger,” “disgust,” and “contempt”). Kinda like this:


The scientists found the Not Face was often used in lieu of words across the different languages. “To our knowledge, this is the first evidence that the facial expressions we use to communicate negative moral judgment have been compounded into a unique, universal part of language,” said Aleix Martinez, an Ohio State University professor of electrical and computer engineering and the researcher behind the study.

A less politically correct viral video also attempts to jokingly reference the universal use of the “b*tchy resting face”.

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