The present study builds on research (Malloy et al. 2011) that weight bias is best fit by a curvilinear function, that is; trait judgments should vary significantly as a function of weight. More weight bias should be elicited by those body types at extreme weights (i.e., skeletally thin and morbidly obese). Targets at such extreme weights were included to adequately test a new theoretical model of weight bias termed the Pathogen Avoidance Theory. Other theories of weight bias were also considered; Socialization and Intergroup Relations. Participants were presented with six female body types varying in weight and were then asked to rate them on 24 trait judgments. The results were best explained by the Pathogen Avoidance Theory which emphasizes the importance of evolution in regard to weight bias. As the target’s weight increased, judgments were profoundly more negative; correspondingly, as the target’s weight decreased, the perceiver’s judgments were just as negative as well. Skeletally thin and morbidly obese bodies vastly deviate from the average body type, as a result, social rejection and avoidance of these targets is exhibited. Thus, the data confirm the hypothesis that weight bias is indeed curvilinear. This study offers an indication of bias against those at extreme weights (skeletally thin and morbidly obese). Moreover, this study offers important insight on social behavior displayed towards body types that strongly deviate from the average.
Chaunt, Lauren, "Explicit Weight Biases are Curvilinear: Testing Pathogen Avoidance, Intergroup Relations and Socialization Theories." (2012). Honors Projects Overview. Paper 61.