Professor Viren Swami

Professor of Social Psychology

Faculty:Faculty of Science and Engineering

School:Psychology and Sport Science

Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: Applied, Social and Health Psychology

Research Supervision:Yes

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

Find Viren on ResearchGate


Viren joined Anglia Ruskin University as Professor of Social Psychology in 2015, having previously worked at the University of Westminster and the University of Liverpool. 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 journals Body Image and PLOS One. 

Viren is a prominent science communicator and author, with extensive experience of television, radio, and digital and print media work. He also frequently presents his research at science, literary, and music festivals, and works with Guerilla Science to dispel myths of attraction through Attraction Labs. Viren’s most recent book, Attraction Explained, has received critical acclaim, being praised as “beautifully written” while managing to be “scrupulously accurate”. Viren is also the convenor of Mind-Body Matters, a series of public engagement events held at Anglia Ruskin University.

Research interests

Viren’s work on body image and human appearance is focused on situating embodiment within different cultural, economic, and socio-political contexts. He is particularly interested in cross-cultural differences in body image and beauty ideals, and his research seeks to map changing patterns of body image across world regions. His other research on body image borrows concepts from 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 overarching aim of this research is to identify factors and activities that protect individuals from body image concerns and disordered eating. For example, Viren’s recent research has highlighted the ways in which exposure to nature, life drawing, and dancing, respectively, can promote more positive body image in adolescents and adults. His other research interests include the psychology of body art (particularly tattooing) and the impact of physical appearance on relationship formation.

Areas of research supervision

  • Body image within different cultural and subcultural contexts
  • The promotion of positive body image
  • Beauty ideals and practices, including body art
  • Embodying activities and influences
  • Psychometrics, including the translation and validation of measures

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
  • Fellow, Advance HE
  • Associate Editor, Body Image
  • Associate Editor, PLOS One
  • Board Director, Asian Psychological Associations

Selected recent publications


Swami, V. (2021). Attraction explained: The science of how we form relationships. 2nd edition. London: Routledge.

Journal articles

Swami, V., & Barron, D. (2018). Translation and validation of body image instruments: Challenges, good practice guidelines, and reporting recommendations for test adaptation. Body Image, advance online publication.

Swami, V., Barron, D., & Furnham, A. (2018). Exposure to natural environments, and photographs of natural environments, promotes more positive body image. Body Image, 24, 82-94.

Swami, V., & Furnham, A. (2018). Breast size dissatisfaction, but not body dissatisfaction, is associated with breast self-examination frequency and breast change behaviours in British women. Body Image, 24, 76-81.

Swami, V., Pickering, M., Barron, D., & Patel, S. (2018). The impact of exposure to films of natural and built environments on state body appreciation. Body Image, 26, 70-73.

Swami, V., Weis, L., Barron, D., & Furnham, A. (2018). Positive body image is positively associated with hedonic (emotional) and eudaimonic (psychological and social) well-being in British adults. Journal of Social Psychology, 158, 541-552.

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.

Media experience

2021: Viren is taking part in a series of live episodes on TikTok in the run-up to Valentine's Day, and will be discussing the science of attraction live on Friday, 12 February from 7pm. Visit to watch.