Prayer, Weight Stigmatization, and Scientific Faith and their Social Psychology
The ironic effects of weight stigma
In summary, this experiment evaluated the extent to which exposure to negative sentiment toward obesity, a social identity threat, affects that person’s subsequent calorie intake, confidence, and self-reported self-efficacy for controlling their diet. The experimenters’ hypothesis, based on research done previously, was that exposure to weight-stigmatizing would “cause overweight individuals, but not non-overweight individuals to: (1) consume more calorie-rich snack foods, (2) feel less able to control their diet and (3) be more concerned about being a target of weight stigma” (Major et al., 75). That is to say that the effects of stigmatizing obesity would have the ironic effect of leading already overweight women to feel less in control of their own diet and actually consume more calories, effectively making their condition more severe. This hypothesis is based on current research that shows people become stressed when exposed to social identity threats, and experience greater executive demands which would mean they are less able to control their dietary intake. The hypothesis did not discuss the effect on non-overweight women except to predict there would not be a change in these factors. One important factor of this research is that it differentiates between women who perceive themselves to be overweight in contrast to those who are objectively considered overweight.
The study focused exclusively on women, since women are “stigmatized at lower weights than males” (Major et al., 75). This helps to broaden the pool of women who perceive themselves as overweight. Both overweight and non-overweight women participated, and all were college-age. All but two women consented to have their BMI recorded, providing the researchers information as to whether they were considered overweight. They each completed online surveys to determine whether they considered themselves to be overweight or not, and how they would rate their own self-efficacy for controlling their calorie intake. Without informing the participants that the study was correlated to food in any way, the researchers had the women read an actual news article that explores notions that stigmatize overweight individuals, specifically why employers are reluctant to hire people who are overweight. The participants are then asked to speak about the facts of the article and its implications for five minutes, knowing they are being recorded. Then during a brief unobserved break, the participants sit and watch a brief film and are offered pre-weighed bowls of various types of snack foods. After this ten minute period, the participants took a post-questionnaire.
The intent of this method was to collect information about how the overweight women in comparison with non-overweight women in the study responded to exposure to the social identity threat presented by the...