Skip to main content

Grumpy Cat Scientifically Verified by Study That Uncovered Humanity’s Nope Face—er, “Not Face”

Grumpy science is perfect Monday science.


Human beings across the globe experience a lot of the same emotions, but we don’t all communicate them in the same way. A new study suggests, however, that the feeling of nope is so deeply ingrained in us that we have a universally understood way to express it, despite its authors’ missed opportunity in calling it the “not face.”

Our inclination to nope is so high, in fact, that researchers at The Ohio State University found that when expressing negative sentiments, humans use the nope face with the same frequency as words in a sentence. They even found that among ASL users, the “not face” would frequently be used in place of the sign for “not,” which they say was a previously undocumented aspect of ASL.

In a paper published in the journal Cognition, the researchers explain that the nope face itself is made up of visual markers for three separate emotions: anger, disgust, and contempt—three emotions we feel in varying degrees when we nope, depending on the situation. These are signified by furrowed brows, a raised chin, and lips pressed together, respectively. Essentially, the nope face is Grumpy Cat, which is why Grumpy Cat appears so surly to human beings. We’re hardwired to read her face as the embodiment of negativity. (It also sounds a lot like Donald Trump’s resting face. Just saying.)

They noted the appearance of the expression by analyzing video of study subjects in conversation frame-by-frame and tagging their individual facial muscle movements while expressing negativity. Aleix Martinez, a cognitive scientist, professor of electrical and computer engineering at The Ohio State University, and co-author on the paper, explained the link between the “not face” and the origins of language,

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. Where did language come from? This is a question that the scientific community has grappled with for a very long time. This study strongly suggests a link between language and facial expressions of emotion.

They started with the universal face of negativity because of the hypothesis that human beings needed to communicate negative emotions effectively well before language developed. In the future, the team hopes to gather more data and move on to more positive emotions and the origins of language in other universal facial expressions that don’t stand out quite as much as Grumpy Cat. We look forward to the discovery that Nyan Cat is the face of pure joy.

(via Science Daily, image via Wikimedia Commons)

—Please make note of The Mary Sue’s general comment policy.—

Do you follow The Mary Sue on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, & Google +?

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

Dan is many things, including a game developer, animator, martial artist, and at least semi-professional pancake chef. He lives in North Carolina with Lisa Brown (his wife) and Liz Lemon (his dog), both of whom are the best, and he will never stop reminding The Last Jedi's detractors that Luke Skywalker's pivotal moment in Return of the Jedi was literally throwing his lightsaber away and refusing to fight.