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Dr Viren Swami

+44 (0)20 7911 5000 ext 2120 v.swami@westminster.ac.uk Department of Psychology, University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London W1B 2HW, UK Mondays 2-3pm, Tuesdays 2-3pm
Dr Viram Swami

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I graduated with an Honours degree in Psychology from University College London, where I also completed my doctorate on body size ideals across cultures. Subsequently, I took up a post-doctoral position at the University of Liverpool, where I worked on several projects relating to men and masculinities. In 2007, I joined the University of Westminster, where I am now a Reader in Psychology and where I coordinate Plug In Your Brain [www.facebook.com/pluginyourbrain], a series of public engagement talks aimed at informing the public about research in psychology. I am currently also an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society and an adjunct Reader in Psychology at HELP University College in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
My teaching is mainly in the area of social psychology and, since 2009, I have been module leader on 1PSY414 Introduction to Social and Developmental Psychology, a core introductory module for Level 4 students.

Like it or not, appearance matters. My research in psychology aims to understand the ways in which an individual’s physical appearance affects their social experiences, which can range from perceptions of attractiveness to bias and discrimination. One particular strand of my research in this area focuses on the factors that shape body size ideals in different social contexts. Why are there sometimes marked cross-cultural differences in what is perceived as the ideal body size? Why do hungry and stressed men idealise a heavier body size than do satiated and unstressed men? These are some of the questions that my research attempts to answer, using experimental psychological approaches enriched by explanatory models from evolution, behavioural ecology, anthropology, and differential psychology.

My related work in this area focuses on the impact of body art (tattoos and piercings) on interpersonal perceptions and the love-is-blind bias, a tendency to perceive our romantic partners as more attractive than objective reality. Relatedly, I am interested in the ways in which appearance has an impact on our body images, that is, our subjective perceptions of our physical selves. My work in this area is multi-faceted and includes a focus on the promotion of positive body image, cross-cultural differences in the prevalence of negative body image, and consideration of cosmetic surgery. One particular branch of this research examines the ways in which sexism and oppressive attitudes affect individuals’ beauty ideal and practices, such as the idealisation of thinness.

My colleagues and I have also developed and validated the Photographic Figure Rating Scale (PFRS), a figural rating scale used for the assessment of perceptual body image. The PFRS is freely available for doctoral-level scientists, as well as students and researchers working under supervision (please email me for a copy of the scale). More recently, I have broadened my research interests to include the area of diffential psychology, that is, the study of individual differences and personality. My work in this area is broad-randing, but key strands includes research on conspiracist ideation and aesthetics. In the first instance, my research attempts to understand why some people are more likely than others to accept and disseminate conspiracy theories. Separately, I am interested in the ways in which our personalities affect our aesthetic preferences, such as the appreciation of different styles of painting or different genres of literature, music, and film

This is a selection of publications, more can be found on WestminsterResearch, our online research repository.

German and Tagalog happiness scales

Swami, Viren (2014) German and Tagalog happiness scales. In: Michalos, A.C., (ed.) Encyclopedia of quality of life research. Elsevier, Amsterdam. ISBN 9789400707528

Mental health literacy of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Swami, Viren (2014) Mental health literacy of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In: Moore, Robert and Perry, Derek, (eds.) Health literacy: developments, issues, and outcomes. Nova Science Publishers, Hauppauge, NY. ISBN 9781628081688

Political paranoia and conspiracy theories

Swami, Viren and Furnham, Adrian (2014) Political paranoia and conspiracy theories. In: van Prooijen, Jan-Willem and van Lange, Paul A.M., (eds.) Power politics, and paranoia: why people are suspicious about their leaders. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. ISBN 9781139950329 (In Press)

Personality and aesthetics preferences

Swami, Viren and Furnham, Adrian (2014) Personality and aesthetics preferences. In: Smith, Jeffrey K. and Tinio, Pablo P.L., (eds.) The Cambridge handbook of the psychology of aesthetics and the arts. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. ISBN 9781107026285 (In Press)

Mental health literacy of negative body image: symptom recognition and beliefs about body image in a British community sample

Swami, Viren and Knowles, Verity (2014) Mental health literacy of negative body image: symptom recognition and beliefs about body image in a British community sample. International Journal of Culture and Mental Health, 7 (2). pp. 199-215. ISSN 1754-2863

The brief body avoidance and checking scale for physically active men: development and initial validation

Campana, Angela Nogueira Neves Betanho and Swami, Viren and Morgado, F.F.R. and Campana, M.B. and Morgado, J.J. and Ferreira, L. and Tavares, Maria da Consolação Gomes Cunha Fernandes (2014) The brief body avoidance and checking scale for physically active men: development and initial validation. International Journal of Sport Psychology . ISSN 0047-0767 (In Press)

Twitter users’ interest in asteroid 2012 DA14 mirrored the asteroid’s trajectory during it’s Earth flyby

Stieger, Stefan and Swami, Viren (2014) Twitter users’ interest in asteroid 2012 DA14 mirrored the asteroid’s trajectory during it’s Earth flyby. Computers in Human Behavior . ISSN 0747-5632 (In Press)

Cultural influences on body size ideals: unpacking the impact of westernisation and modernisation

Swami, Viren (2014) Cultural influences on body size ideals: unpacking the impact of westernisation and modernisation. European Psychologist . ISSN 1016-9040 (In Press)

Metalheads: the influence of personality and individual differences on preference for heavy metal

Swami, Viren and Malpass, Fiona and Havard, David and Benford, Karis and Costescu, Ana and Sofitiki, Angeliki and Taylor, Donna (2013) Metalheads: the influence of personality and individual differences on preference for heavy metal. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 7 (4). pp. 377-383. ISSN 1931-3896

An examination of the psychometric properties of Brazilian Portuguese translations of the drive for muscularity scale, the Swansea muscularity attitudes questionnaire, and the masculine body ideal distress scale

Campana, Angela Nogueira Neves Betanho and Tavares, Maria da Consolação Gomes Cunha Fernandes and Swami, Viren and da Silva, Dirceu (2013) An examination of the psychometric properties of Brazilian Portuguese translations of the drive for muscularity scale, the Swansea muscularity attitudes questionnaire, and the masculine body ideal distress scale. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 14 (4). pp. 376-388. ISSN 1524-9220

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