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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2019 Apr 2. doi: 10.1002/oby.22460. [Epub ahead of print]

Blatant Dehumanization of People with Obesity.

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Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK.
School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK.



Stigmatization of obesity is common, but whether this stigma extends to people with obesity also being considered less human than individuals without obesity has not been examined. This study investigated whether people with obesity are blatantly dehumanized (i.e., explicitly considered to be less human and more animallike) and whether this predicts obesity discrimination.


In four online studies (total N = 1,506) with American, British, and Indian participants, evidence for blatant dehumanization of people with obesity was examined. Whether blatant dehumanization of people with obesity was moderated by BMI and to what extent blatant dehumanization predicted support for weight discrimination were also investigated.


In all studies, participants believed that people with obesity were less evolved and less human than people without obesity. Although blatant dehumanization of people with obesity was most pronounced among thinner participants, the belief that people with obesity were less human was also observed among participants with class I obesity. Finally, dehumanization was predictive of support for policies that discriminate against people living with obesity.


This study provides the first evidence that people with obesity are blatantly dehumanized. This tendency to consider people with obesity as less human reveals the level of obesity stigma and may facilitate and/or justify weight discrimination.


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