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.
Swami, Viren (2013) German and Tagalog happiness scales. In: Michalos, A.C., (ed.) Encyclopedia of quality of life research. Elsevier, Amsterdam. ISBN 9789400707528 (In Press)
Coles, Rebecca and Swami, Viren (2013) Feminism and body image: a qualitative investigation. In: Gotsiridze-Columbus, Nadya, (ed.) Body image: gender differences, sociocultural influences, and heath implications. Nova Science Publishers, Hauppauge, NY. (In Press)
Swami, Viren (2013) The influence of the hijab (Islamic head-cover) on interpersonal judgments of women: a replication and extension. In: Marich, Jamie, (ed.) The psychology of women: diverse perspectives from the modern world. Nova Science Publishers, Hauppauge, NY, pp. 128-140. ISBN 9781622578993
Swami, Viren (2013) Context matters: investigating the impact of contextual information on aesthetic appreciation of paintings by Max Ernst and Pablo Picasso. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, OnlineFirst . ISSN 1931-3896 (In Press)
Swami, Viren and Monk, R. (2013) Weight bias against women in a university acceptance scenario. Journal of General Psychology, 140 (1). pp. 45-56. ISSN 0022-1309
Swami, Viren and Pietschnig, Jakob and Tran, Ulrich S. and Nader, Ingo W. and Stieger, Stefan and Voracek, Martin (2013) Lunar lies: the impact of informational framing and individual differences in shaping conspiracist beliefs about the moon landings. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 27 (1). pp. 71-80. ISSN 0888-4080
Swami, Viren (2013) Mental health literacy of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In: Columbus, N., (ed.) Health literacy: developments, issues, and outcomes. Nova Science Publishers, Hauppauge, NY. (In Press)
Swami, Viren and Furnham, Adrian (2013) Political paranoia and conspiracy theories. In: Prooijen, J.-P and van Lange, P.A.M., (eds.) Power politics, and paranoia: why people are suspicious about their leaders. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. (In Press)
Swami, Viren and Furnham, Adrian (2013) Personality and aesthetics preferences. In: Smith, J. and Tinio, P.P.L., (eds.) The Cambridge handbook of the psychology of aesthetics and the arts. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. (In Press)
Swami, Viren and Knowles, Verity (2013) 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 . ISSN 1754-2863 (In Press)
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