How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
The ChangingMinds Blog!
Anticipation, power and fat people
I don't know if you are allowed to call people fat these days but 'obesity bias' is alive and well. In recent research, Olivier Klein and colleagues showed subjects a picture of someone they were going to meet and then asked them some careful questions about how they were feeling.
Subjects who were shown pictures of overweight people (as opposed to those who were shown pictures of 'normal' weight people) used more words like "powerful" and "strong" to describe themselves, indicating a relative sense of power. They also indicated their sense of social superiority with phrases like "I could make the interaction more enjoyable for my partner" and "I expect that my partner will like me more than I like him". They were also critical of obesity, such as saying it was due to a lack of will-power.
Subjects were selected randomly and the results indicated how widespread common perceptions of obesity are, such as being weak-willed and lazy, and consequently inferior.
It's a simple fact that bias of all kinds is a pert of the human condition and although we try to banish it, from ourselves as well as others, it has a stubbornness that seems likely to persist.
Fat people are shunned because in this age, it tends to subliminally suggest
poverty. Obesity is actually not a cut and dried matter of Diet and
Exercise...and everyone knows this, but most people do not want to know it or
acknowledge this, since it makes their feeling superior to fat folks less
meaningful. Some people exercise for hours and eat one meal a day for years and
don\'t have any change of weight at all. Complex interaction of genetics,
movement and metabolism determine how much fat one retains.
There can also be a stereotype in recruitment of fat = lazy, with the assumption that overweight people cannot be bothered to exercise and hence will be poor employees. A recent report said that 10% of the world is overweight, with particular increases in more affluent countries.