Professor Viren Swami

Professor of Social Psychology

Faculty:Faculty of Science & Technology


Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: Applied, Social and Health Psychology

Viren is a social psychologist whose research focuses on the psychology of human appearance and body image and, separately, the psychology of conspiracy theories.

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Viren joined Anglia Ruskin University as Professor of Social Psychology in 2015, having previously worked at the University of Westminster. He is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, and an Associate Editor for the journal Body Image. Viren is also an adjunct Professor at HELP University College in Malaysia and is the author of Attraction Explained, The Psychology of Physical Attraction, and The Missing Arms of Vénus de Milo.

Research interests

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Viren’s work on human appearance and body image is focused on situating embodiment within different cultural and socio-political contexts. He is particularly interested in cross-cultural differences in beauty ideals and body image, and his research seeks to map changing rates of negative body image across different world regions. His other research on body image borrows concepts from first-wave feminist scholarship to examine the way in which beauty ideals and practices shift awareness away from real competencies to superficial aspects related to beauty and appearance. The aim of this research is to identify factors that might protect women and men from body image concerns and disordered eating.

Separately, Viren’s research also examines the psychology of conspiracy theories. His work in this area is focused on identifying factors that are associated with greater belief in conspiracy theories and the consequences of such beliefs in everyday life. More recently, he has been researching ways of reducing belief in conspiracy theories, particularly through the promotion of analytical thinking styles. His other areas of interest include the psychology of body art (particularly tattooing), mental health literacy, and public appreciation of art, literature, and music.

Viren is a member of our Identity and Social Issues Research Area which forms part of our Applied, Social and Health Psychology Research Group.

Areas of research supervision

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  • Body image within different cultural and subcultural contexts
  • Beauty ideals and practices, including body art
  • The promotion of positive body image
  • Correlates of anomalous beliefs, including belief in conspiracy theories
  • Appreciation of art, literature, and music

Find out more about our Psychology PhD.


  • PhD in Psychology, University College London, 2005
  • BSc (Hons) Psychology, University College London, 2002

Memberships, editorial boards

  • Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow, British Psychological Society
  • Associate Editor, Body Image
  • Associate Editor, Sarjana
  • Editor, Frontiers Research Special Issue on Conspiracy Theories

Selected recent publications

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Swami, V. (2016). Attraction explained: The science of how we form relationships. London: Routledge.

Swami, V. (Ed.) (2011). Evolutionary psychology: A critical introduction. Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

Swami, V., & Furnham, A. (2008). The psychology of physical attraction. London: Routledge.

Swami, V., & Furnham, A. (Eds.) (2007). Body beautiful: Evolutionary and sociocultural perspectives. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Swami, V. (2007). The missing arms of Vénus de Milo: Reflections on the science of physical attractiveness. Brighton, UK: Book Guild.

Selected Journal Articles

Swami, V., Tran, Kuhlmann, T., Stieger, S., Gaughan, H., & Voracek, M. (2016). More similar than different: Tattooed adults are only slightly more impulsive and willing to take risks than non-tattooed adults. Personality and Individual Differences, 88, 40-44.

Swami, V. (2015). Cultural influences on body size ideals: Unpacking the impact of Westernisation and modernisation. European Psychologist, 20, 44-51.

Swami, V., Cass, L., Waseem, M., & Furnham, A. (2015). What is the relationship between facets of narcissism, body image, and symptoms of disordered eating? Personality and Individual Differences, 87, 185-189.

Swami, V., Cavelti, S., Taylor, D., & Tovée, M. J. (2015). The Breast Size Rating Scale: Development and psychometric evaluation. Body Image, 14, 29-38.

Swami, V., Tran, U. S., Stieger, S., Voracek, M., & The Team (2015). Associations between women’s body image and happiness: Results of the Body Image Survey (YBIS). Journal of Happiness Studies, 16, 705-716.

Swami, V., Diwell, R., & McCreary, D. M. (2014). Sexuality and the drive for muscularity: Evidence of associations among British men. Body Image, 11, 543-546.

Swami, V., Miah, J., Noorani, N., & Taylor, D. (2014). Is the hijab protective? An investigation of body image and related constructs among British Muslim women. British Journal of Psychology, 105, 352-363.

Swami, V., Voracek, M., Stieger, S., Tran, U. S., & Furnham, A. (2014). Analytic thinking reduces belief in conspiracy theories. Cognition, 133, 572-585.

Swami, V. (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, 7, 285-295.

Swami, V., Malpass, F., Havard, D., Benford, K., Costescu, A., Sofitiki, A., & Taylor, D. (2013). Metalheads: The influence of personality and individual differences on preference for heavy metal. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 7, 377-383.

Swami, V., & Szmigielska, E. (2013). Body image concerns in professional fashion models: Are they really an at-risk group? Psychiatry Research, 207, 113-117.

Swami, V., & Tovée, M. J. (2013). Men’s oppressive beliefs predict their breast size preferences in women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42, 1199-1207.

Swami, V., & Tovée, M. J. (2013). Resource security impact men’s female breast size preferences. PLoS ONE, 8, e57623.

Swami, V. (2012). Mental health literacy of depression: Gender differences and attitudinal antecedents in a representative British sample. PLoS ONE, 7, e49779.

Swami, V., & Tovée, M. J. (2012). The impact of psychological stress on men’s judgements of female body size. PLoS ONE, 7, e42593.

Swami, V. (2011). Marked for life? A prospective study of tattoos on appearance anxiety and dissatisfaction, perceptions of uniqueness, and self-esteem. Body Image, 8, 237-244.

Swami, V., Coles, R., Stieger, S., Pietschnig, J., Furnham, A., Rehim, S., & Voracek, M. (2011). Conspiracist ideation in Britain and Austria: Evidence of a monological belief system and associations between individual psychological differences and real-world and fictitious conspiracy theories. British Journal of Psychology, 102, 443-463.

Swami, V., Frederick, D. A., Aavik, T., Alcalay, L., Allik, J., Anderson, D., … & Zivcic-Becirevic, I. (2010). Body weight ideals and body dissatisfaction in 26 countries across 10 world regions: Results of the International Body Project I. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36, 309-325.

Media experience

Viren’s has extensive experience of media work and his research is frequently discussed in the international press. His media credits include appearances on The One Show, the National Geographic Channel, and BBC’s Radio 4. He regularly presents his research at science festivals and to prospective university students. He was also director of Plug In Your Brain, a public engagement initiative aimed at promoting public understanding of psychology, between 2011 and 2015.