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Obes Facts. 2011;4(4):278-83. doi: 10.1159/000330809. Epub 2011 Jul 26.

The self-protective nature of implicit identity and its relationship to weight bias and short-term weight loss.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403, USA.



Research suggests that making overly positive self-evaluations is the norm rather than the exception. However, unlike other stigmatized groups, overweight individuals do not exhibit a positive in-group social identity and instead exhibit significant explicit, implicit, and internalized weight bias. Therefore, it is not known whether overweight/obese individuals will evidence self-enhancement on general traits (good, attractive), or on traits inconsistent with fat stereotypes (disciplined, active, healthy eater), on an assessment of implicit attitudes. Similarly, it is not known whether these ratings will be associated with preexisting levels of weight bias, gender, or short-term weight loss.


At baseline, 53 overweight/obese adults (BMI > 27 kg/m(2), mean BMI = 37.3 kg/m(2), SD = 6.6 kg/m(2), 89% Caucasian, and 77% female) participating in a weight loss intervention completed measures of explicit and internalized weight bias as well as implicit weight bias and identity (self-other comparisons).


Although participants evidenced significant anti-fat attitudes, they implicitly identified themselves as significantly thinner, better, more attractive, active, disciplined, and more likely to eat healthy than 'other' people. Compared to men, women were less likely to view themselves as thin and attractive relative to others. Greater implicit anti-fat bias and implicitly seeing the self as thin relative to others was associated with less short-term weight loss.


Despite evidence for explicit, implicit, and internalized weight bias, participants generally evidenced a positive implicit self-identity, including areas consistent with negative fat stereotypes.

Copyright © 2011 S. Karger AG, Basel.

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