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Appetite. 2014 Oct;81:269-76. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2014.06.109. Epub 2014 Jul 2.

Can merely learning about obesity genes affect eating behavior?

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School of Psychology, University of Sydney, Brennan-MacCallum Bldg (A18), NSW 2006, Australia. Electronic address:
University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada.
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Public discourse on genetic predispositions for obesity has flourished in recent decades. In three studies, we investigated behaviorally-relevant correlates and consequences of a perceived genetic etiology for obesity. In Study 1, beliefs about etiological explanations for obesity were assessed. Stronger endorsement of genetic etiology was predictive of a belief that obese people have no control over their weight. In Study 2, beliefs about weight and its causes were assessed following a manipulation of the perceived underlying cause. Compared with a genetic attribution, a non-genetic physiological attribution led to increased perception of control over one's weight. In Study 3, participants read a fictional media report presenting either a genetic explanation, a psychosocial explanation, or no explanation (control) for obesity. Results indicated that participants who read the genetic explanation ate significantly more on a follow-up task. Taken together, these studies demonstrate potential effects of genetic attributions for obesity.


Etiological explanations for obesity; Genetic attributions; Genetic essentialism; Overeating behavior; Perceived control

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