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Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Jay W. Jackson


Department of Psychology

University Affiliation

Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne


The number of obese adults and children in the United States has risen dramatically over the past few decades (Centers for Disease Control, 2011). As a result, there has been increased attention given to how overweight people are perceived and treated (Crandall, et al., 2001). There is clear evidence that overweight people tend to be more negatively evaluated and stereotyped than their normal weight counterparts (Lieberman, Tybur & Latner, 2010). This is a form of prejudice referred to as weight bias. We conducted a study to examine the psychological determinants of weight bias, with a focus on the “Big 5” personality traits (Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness), causal attributions (the extent to which people prefer to consider multiple causes for people’s behavior or prefer to make simplistic, internal attributions), and contact experiences with overweight individuals. From a person x situation model of prejudice (Jackson & Poulsen, 2005), we hypothesized that expression of weight bias would be inversely related to Openness and Agreeableness, attributional complexity, and favorable contact experiences with overweight individuals.

We administered a survey to 166 male and female PSY 120 students. The survey included the Aspects of the Big Five scale (DeYoung, Quilty, & Peterson, 2007), the Attributional complexity scale (Fletcher, Canilovics, Fernandez, Peterson, & Reeder, 1986), a measure of the quality and frequency of contact experiences with overweight individuals (adapted from Tzeng and Jackson, 1994), and a measure of weight bias (the “Anti-Fat Attitudes” scale, Crandall, 1994).

The results of correlational, regression, and other analyses were consistent with our primary theoretical predictions. Aspects of Openness and Agreeableness predicted more favorable contact experiences and greater attributional complexity; these variables, in turn, predicted less weight bias. These results replicate and extend the person x situation model of prejudice and have practical and theoretical implications.


Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences

Weight Bias as a Function of Personality, Attributions and Contact Experiences

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