Publications and Research

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

December 2013

Abstract

Although a greater degree of personal obesity is associated with weaker negativity toward overweight people on both explicit (i.e., self-report) and implicit (i.e., indirect behavioral) measures, overweight people still prefer thin people on average. We investigated whether the national and cultural context – particularly the national prevalence of obesity – predicts attitudes toward overweight people independent of personal identity and weight status. Data were collected from a total sample of 338,121 citizens from 71 nations in 22 different languages on the Project Implicit website (https://implicit.harvard.edu/) between May 2006 and October 2010. We investigated the relationship of the explicit and implicit weight bias with the obesity both at the individual (i.e., across individuals) and national (i.e., across nations) level. Explicit weight bias was assessed with self-reported preference between overweight and thin people; implicit weight bias was measured with the Implicit Association Test (IAT). The national estimates of explicit and implicit weight bias were obtained by averaging the individual scores for each nation. Obesity at the individual level was defined as Body Mass Index (BMI) scores, whereas obesity at the national level was defined as three national weight indicators (national BMI, national percentage of overweight and underweight people) obtained from publicly available databases. Across individuals, greater degree of obesity was associated with weaker implicit negativity toward overweight people compared to thin people. Across nations, in contrast, a greater degree of national obesity was associated with stronger implicit negativity toward overweight people compared to thin people. This result indicates a different relationship between obesity and implicit weight bias at the individual and national levels.

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