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Psychol Rep. 1993 Dec;73(3 Pt 1):963-70.

Obesity as a characterological stigma: the issue of responsibility and judgments of task performance.

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  • 1Department of Health and Social Behavior, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115.


A study was conducted to investigate whether beliefs about the cause of a person's obesity would influence attributions made about that person's task performance. 168 high school girls were shown a videotape of an obese or normal-weight confederate playing a game and performing either above or below average. Half of the subjects seeing the obese girl were led to believe that her obesity was due to a glandular disorder beyond her control. Subjects rated the obese target as more self-indulgent and less self-disciplined than the normal-weight target, except when her obesity was said to have resulted from a glandular disorder. However, subjects did not differentially attribute the confederate's task performance as a function of her weight or her perceived responsibility for it. Corroborating the results of earlier studies, no evidence was found that these high school girls subscribe to the stereotype of the "jolly" fat person.

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