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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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Science and Technology | Faculty
Psychology | Department
Social Psychology | Research

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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.

Factor structure and psychometric properties of the body appreciation scale among adults in Hong Kong

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)

Are the scope and nature of psychology properly understood? An examination of belief in myths of popular psychology among university students

Swami, Viren and Thorn, Lisa and Husbands, Deborah and Tran, Ulrich S. and Nader, Ingo W. and von Nordheim, Laura and Pietschnig, Jakob and Stieger, Stefan and Voracek, Martin (2015) Are the scope and nature of psychology properly understood? An examination of belief in myths of popular psychology among university students. In: Columbus, N., (ed.) Advances in psychology research. Nova Science Publishers, Hauppage, NY. (In Press)

Examination of the factor structure of the Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire (SPQ) among British and Trinidadian adults

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)

Analytic thinking reduces belief in conspiracy theories

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

Associations between schizotypy and belief in conspiracist ideation

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

Body image and personality among British men: associations between the big five domains, drive for muscularity, and body appreciation

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

Sexuality and the drive for muscularity: evidence of associations among British men

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

Is the hijab protective? An investigation of body image and related constructs among British Muslim women

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

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

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