Psychology researchers set to stage world’s only international conference on appearance and body image

Media Relations Team, 22 May 2024

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Centre for Appearance Research logo in front of a backdrop of the city docks in Bristol

Researchers from UWE Bristol are getting ready to stage the world’s only international conference focused on issues around appearance and body image.

Leading global experts in the field will descend on Bristol for the 10th instalment in the Appearance Matters conference series next month, organised by the Centre for Appearance Research (CAR).

The biennial event on 11-13 June is returning to Bristol 20 years after the inaugural Appearance Matters conference held at the Watershed. Since then, the event has been held in various cities across the UK and was held entirely online in 2021 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Starting as a one-day event in 2003 with 80 delegates, the conference has grown to an event stretching across three days and attracting 300 delegates, including international key players in body image and appearance research and practice.

This year the keynote speakers will be Professor Kathleen Bogart, from Oregon State University, along with Professor Phillippa Diedrichs, from the Centre for Appearance Research.

Professor Bogart was born with a facial difference and is dedicated to research and advocacy intervening on visible difference stigma and ableism. Passionate about the disability community, she is the co-founder of the Disability Advocacy and Research Network (DARN) for disabled psychologists and allies.

Professor Diedrichs is known internationally for creating evidence-based strategies to improve body image and mental health in digital, community, business, and policy settings. These have been delivered to over 94 million young people in partnership with global youth organisations and businesses, including a long-standing academic partnership with the Dove Self-Esteem Project.

On the second day of the conference, an exciting panel event called ‘Beyond the Selfie: Can Social Media Influencers Shape the Appearance Diversity Landscape?’ will explore whether social media influencers can promote appearance diversity. This discussion – moderated by fashion and identity commentator Caryn Franklin – will touch on key topics such as body positivity, diverse representation, ethics, regulation, and legislation. Elsewhere, the conference will feature training workshops, paper, and poster presentations, and mentoring and social events.

Dr Heidi Williamson, Associate Professor in Applied Health Research and one of the three organisers of this year’s event, said: “It’s fantastic to be bringing the conference back to our home city of Bristol after many years away, and holding it as an in-person event once again after we were restricted to a virtual conference in 2021.

“We have a stellar line up of speakers in store for Appearance Matters and are looking forward to hearing from a host of internationally-acclaimed academics and clinicians working at the top of their profession, alongside a wide range of innovative, up-and-coming researchers. As always, a warm and friendly welcome awaits all our delegates this year.”

The conference is taking place in CAR’s 30th anniversary year. The centre has grown from two researchers and a PhD student to become what is considered the largest research centre in the world focussed on appearance and body image. CAR has expanded into an internationally recognised centre of excellence, comprising 35 academics, researchers, and post-graduate research students. It covers psychological and interdisciplinary, person-centred research in appearance, visible difference (‘disfigurement’), body image and related studies.

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