Professor Viren Swami

Professor of Social Psychology

Faculty:Faculty of Science and Engineering

Department:School of Psychology and Sport Science

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.

Find Viren on ResearchGate


Viren joined Anglia Ruskin University as Professor of Social Psychology in 2015, having previously worked at the University of Westminster. He is also the Director of, and Adjunct Professor at, the Centre for Psychological Medicine, a collaborative research centre between Anglia Ruskin University and Perdana University in Malaysia. He is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, and an Associate Editor for the journal Body Image. Viren is the author of Attraction Explained, The Psychology of Physical Attraction, and The Missing Arms of Vénus de Milo, as well as over 250 peer-reviewed publications.

Spoken Languages

English, Bahasa Malaysia

Research interests

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

  • 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
  • Board Director, Asian Psychological Associations

Selected recent publications


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

Selected Journal Articles

Swami, V., Barron, D., Weis, L., & Furnham, A., 2017. To Brexit or not to Brexit: The roles of Islamophobia, conspiracist beliefs, and integrated threat in voting intentions for the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum. British Journal of Psychology, in press.

Swami, V., 2017. Sketching people: Prospective investigations of the impact of life drawing on body image. Body Image, 20, 65-73.

Swami, V., Barron, D., Weis, L., Voracek, M., Stieger, S., & Furnham, A., 2017. An examination of the factorial and convergent validity of four measures of conspiracist ideation, with recommendations for researchers. PLoS One, 12, e0172617.

Swami, V., 2016. Change in risk factors for eating disorder symptomatology in Malay students sojourning in the United Kingdom. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 49, 695-700.

Swami, V., 2016. Masculinities and ethnicities: Ethnic differences in drive for muscularity in British men and the negotiation of masculine hierarchies. British Journal of Psychology, 107, 577-592.

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

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.