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.
Barron, David S. and Towell, Anthony and Swami, Viren and Morgan, Kevin D. (2015) Examination of the factor structure of the Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire (SPQ) among British and Trinidadian adults. BioMed Research International. ISSN 2314-6133 (In Press)
Swami, Viren and Barron, David S. and Ng, Siu-Kuen (2015) Factor structure and psychometric properties of the body appreciation scale among adults in Hong Kong. Body Image. ISSN 1740-1445 (In Press)
Swami, Viren and Voracek, Martin and Stieger, Stefan and Tran, Ulrich S. and Furnham, Adrian (2014) Analytic thinking reduces belief in conspiracy theories. Cognition, 133 (3). pp. 572-585. ISSN 0010-0277
Barron, David S. and Morgan, Kevin and Towell, Anthony and Altemeyer, Boris and Swami, Viren (2014) Associations between schizotypy and belief in conspiracist ideation. Personality and Individual Differences, 70. pp. 156-159. ISSN 0191-8869
Swami, Viren and Diwell, Rachel and McCreary, Donald R. (2014) Sexuality and the drive for muscularity: evidence of associations among British men. Body Image, 11 (4). pp. 543-546. ISSN 1740-1445
Swami, Viren and Benford, Karis (2014) Body image and personality among British men: associations between the big five domains, drive for muscularity, and body appreciation. Body Image, 11 (4). pp. 454-457. ISSN 1740-1445
Swami, Viren and Miah, Jusnara and Noorani, Nazerine and Taylor, Donna (2014) Is the hijab protective? An investigation of body image and related constructs among British Muslim women. British Journal of Psychology, 105 (3). pp. 352-363. ISSN 0007-1269
Swami, Viren and Stieger, Stefan (2014) Time to let go? No automatic aesthetic preference for the golden ratio. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. ISSN 1931-3896 (In Press)
Scott, Isabel M. and Clark, Andrew P. and Josephson, Steven C. and Boyette, Adam H. and Cuthill, Innes C. and Fried, Ruby L. and Gibson, Mhairi A. and Hewlett, Barry S. and Jamieson, Mark and Jankowiak, William and Honey, P.Lynne and Huang, Zejun and Liebert, Melissa A. and Purzycki, Benjamin G. and Shaver, John H. and Snodgrass, J. Josh and Sosis, Richard and Sugiyama, Lawrence S. and Swami, Viren and Yu, Douglas W. and Zhao, Yangke and Penton-Voak, Ian S. (2014) Human preferences for sexually dimorphic faces may be evolutionarily novel. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111 (40). pp. 14388-14393. ISSN 1091-6490
Swami, Viren (2014) Cultural influences on body size ideals: unpacking the impact of westernisation and modernisation. European Psychologist. ISSN 1016-9040 (In Press)
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