New interactive exhibit in At-Bristol challenges assumptions about appearance

Issue date: 27 April 2012

Researchers from UWE Bristol Centre for Appearance Research (CAR) are embarking on a new project that will result in an interactive exhibit 'Does Appearance Matter?' that challenges us all to think about assumptions we make about people on the basis of how they look.

Working in partnership with At-Bristol, one of the UK's leading science centres and partly funded by a public engagement grant from the British Psychological Society, the CAR team are building on ideas piloted last summer at a 'Meet the Expert' event held in At-Bristol.

Dr Diana Harcourt from CAR explains, “We have adapted some popular board games, to help us to demonstrate that we all make assumptions about other people on the basis of their appearance. The games have been really well received by the public and, through working closely with our partners, we are now developing these ideas to create a novel, interactive, exhibit that will be on permanent show in At-Bristol.

“As psychologists, we know that people make judgements about others on the basis of first impressions – and that appearance is key to the assumptions we make about them. Our 'game' helps us to explain to the public that when we meet new people we often draw on stereotypes, such as 'younger people are fitter than older people' or 'people who have a disfigurement would like to change their appearance', but these stereotypes are often inaccurate or misleading.”

At-Bristol visitors will discover for themselves the shortcuts their brains use when meeting new people, as they work their way through the fun gameshow format.

In addition the exhibit will also link into At-Bristol's virtual site, 'Explore More', where visitors can find animations, video and data collected during their visit, as well as further stories behind the exhibit content. They can even submit their own photo to become part of the exhibit.

Dan Bird, Director of Exhibitions added “This is a really exciting collaboration, bringing more contemporary science into the At-Bristol exhibition and adding to the many activities available through Explore More.”

“Does Appearance Matter?” will be launched during the summer of 2012.


Notes to Editors:

Centre for Appearance Research

The Centre for Appearance Research (CAR) is a multi-disciplinary research centre based at the UWE Bristol. CAR strives to make a real difference to the lives of the many hundreds of thousands of people with appearance-related concerns both in the United Kingdom and across the world.

CAR acts as a focus and centre of excellence for psychological and interdisciplinary research in appearance, disfigurement, body image and related studies.

The British Psychological Society

The British Psychological Society is the representative body for psychology and psychologists in the UK. It is responsible for the development, promotion and application of psychology for the public good.


  1. At-Bristol is a leading science centre in the UK and a major player in the worldwide science centre movement.
  2. At-Bristol aims to be a world-class science centre that makes a distinctive, valued and recognised contribution to science learning and public engagement with science across Europe.
  3. A registered charity, At-Bristol has hosted over four million visits since its opening in June 2000 and continually strives towards making science accessible to all
  4. At-Bristol receives no central government funding and support from visitors, members, corporate partners and donors means it can continue to make science relevant and fun for future generations.
  5. As well as being a family attraction, each year At-Bristol welcomes over 40,000 school children for visits and education workshops and is also home to the Science Learning Centre South West, which delivers high-quality continuing professional development to teachers.

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