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 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 (2014) German and Tagalog happiness scales. In: Michalos, A.C., (ed.) Encyclopedia of quality of life research. Elsevier, Amsterdam. ISBN 9789400707528
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
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, pp. 218-236. ISBN 9781107035805
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)
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
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)
Swami, Viren (2014) Cultural influences on body size ideals: unpacking the impact of westernisation and modernisation. European Psychologist . ISSN 1016-9040 (In Press)
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 (2013) The brief body avoidance and checking scale for physically active men: development and initial validation. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 44 (6). pp. 531-545. ISSN 0047-0767
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
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