BPS grant helps facial recognition project

public engagement grant from the British Psychological Society is helping researchers from the UWE Bristol Centre for Appearance Research (CAR) embark on a new project. This 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, the CAR team is building on ideas piloted last summer at a 'Meet the Expert' event held in At-Bristol.

Chartered Psychologist 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 game-show 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.

You can find out more about the Society’s public engagement grants on this website.