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date: 15 December 2019

(p. vii) Foreword

(p. vii) Foreword

As a graduate student in the early 1970s, I was in search of a meaningful direction for my doctoral dissertation on self-disclosure in the initial acquaintance process. My mentor suggested that I consider how “the physical attractiveness variable” might influence this commencement of interpersonal interactions. Surely, I thought, he must be kidding or testing my foolishness. Why would I risk my doctorate on something so subjective and superficial … so unscientific? However, after reading the nascent research on the subject, I followed his advice. At that point and over the subsequent course of my career as a clinical and research psychologist, I came to understand the power, both subtle and profound, of human physical appearance.

Fast forward forty years and here we have this marvelous handbook that thoughtfully educates its readers on the psychology of appearance. This volume draws from decades of various scientific literatures and from emerging applications to assist people affected by appearance-related concerns that challenge the quality of their life experiences. Editors Nichola Rumsey and Diana Harcourt, who are highly esteemed scholars in this interdisciplinary field, have assembled knowledgeable contributors to construct a volume with exceptional breadth and depth.

Their book intelligently incorporates the two core perspectives on physical appearance. The first is the “outside or social-observer view,” which pertains to social perceptions of appearance and appearance-based stereotyping and behaviors. Clearly people's lives are affected by how others judge them and treat them us based on their looks. The second perspective is the “inside or self view”—namely, the self-perceptions and attitudes that constitute the contemporary body image concept. Body image strongly affects how people think and feel about themselves, how they behave, and how they relate to others. Regardless of its cause or its focus, a negative body image can greatly undermine self-acceptance, psychosocial functioning, and day-to-day quality of life.

The fifty chapters in The Oxford Handbook of the Psychology of Appearance are effectively organized into five sections. The first four sections are helpfully launched by the editors' overview of the ensuing content and are concluded by their summary and synthesis of the preceding chapters. The fifth section and chapter provides the editors' own insightful visions for the field. I commend the editors for sounding their well-spoken voices throughout the volume.

Over the course of this handbook, we come to better understand and genuinely care about how appearance and appearance-altering conditions shape lives within (p. viii) the contexts of culture, gender, human development, familial and interpersonal transactions, and healthcare systems. We learn about the extant theories, methods, and technologies for the study of appearance. We are provided with a critical examination of interventions, both biomedical and psychosocial, intended to enhance the quality of embodied lives. We are invited to consider the need for systemic, societal changes to promote appearance acceptance, whether one's own appearance or that of others. We are always encouraged to identify compassionately with the experiences of persons with visible differences.

This unique compendium is a valuable resource to diverse audiences—researchers, practitioners, social commentators, and policy makers; students and professionals in social and behavioral sciences and those in medical and allied health disciplines; as well as all educated persons who simply wish to expand their awareness of a thought-provoking and influential aspect of the human condition. I extend my gratitude and congratulations to the editors and contributors for this outstanding achievement and advancement of knowledge.

Thomas F. Cash, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus of Psychology

Old Dominion University

Norfolk, Virginia USA