Disfigurement –can research make a difference?

Issue date: 30 September 2009

Centre for Appearance Research Professor Nichola Rumsey, a leading academic in the field of the psychology of appearance will give a lecture on: 'Reconfiguring disfigurement: challenging perceptions of what really makes a difference' on Thursday, 1 October at 17.30 in Room 2D07, Frenchay Campus, University of the West of England.

The lecture marks her appointment as VTCT Professor of Appearance Psychology. The Vocational Training Charitable Trust (VTCT) is funding two senior researchers to work on psychological aspects of disfigurement at UWE.

Nichola is the director of the Centre for Appearance Research(CAR) at UWE. She has an international reputation for research in the Psychology of Appearance and has published widely in the field.

The lecture looks at ways in which research can make a difference both to individuals living with visible difference, and to society as a whole.

Nichola says, “We are delighted with the funding from VTCT as it provides an opportunity to be able to develop our research programme over the next five years.
One area of our research is to look at how the provision of psychosocial care in the health care system can help those with a visible difference. For example people with a facial disfigurement need support when making decisions about treatment or adjusting to a new appearance after surgery. This could take the form of written materials or one to one interventions to help to build their self esteem and deal positively with difficulties and social situations.

“Our research is also concerned with understanding society's attitudes to appearance, and the unrealistic standards of beauty which now prevail. This can have a negative affect on self esteem - especially of teenagers – both boys and girls. We are looking to identify ways in which, through education, we can help people, especially the young, to feel less pressurised by these standards of beauty and the images they are presented with. We want to encourage diversity in appearance rather than the unrealistic ideals portrayed in the media.”

Nichola's interest in the psychological consequences of disfigurement developed in the 1980s when she undertook research leading to a doctoral thesis entitled 'Psychological Problems Associated with Facial Disfigurement'.

She played a supporting role in the founding of the charity 'Changing Faces' with James Partridge in 1990 and established the Changing Faces Research Unit at UWE in 1992. This led to the creation of the Centre for Appearance Research (CAR) at UWE in 1998. CAR currently has 30 psychologists and postgraduate researchers with expertise in a broad range of quantitative and qualitative methodologies.

For details of the lecture and how to attend see: Professorial Inaugural Lectures

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