Overweight stereotype threat: how overweight self-perception may impact women’s capacity to select low-calorie food


  • L. Houtin
  • P. Chekroun


Overweight people are targeted by numerous stereotypes which can be deleterious for their food choices (Brochu & Dovidio, 2014) through stereotype threat (ST, Steele & Aronson, 1995). As many individuals perceive themselves as overweight (Chang & Christakis, 2003) and may fear to confirm these stereotypes (Carels et al, 2013), we suggest that they could also suffer from ST. 184 female students reported their weight perception before the sessions. In Diagnostic condition participants provided weight-related information and were introduced to a food-selection task pretending to test if overweight people badly select food. In Nondiagnostic condition, the instruction did not mentioned weight. All participants completed the PANAS, performed the task, completed a distraction task while they were offered M&M's and completed the PANAS again. A significant Diagnosticity x Self-perceived weight interaction effect was found, β = -.16, t(179) = -2.24, p = .026. Overweight self-perception inhibits performance on the food-selection task in Diagnostic condition, β = -.31, t(177) = -2.62, p = .010 and enhances it in Nondiagnostic condition, β = .19, t(177) = 2.05, p = .042. Participants eat more M&M’s in Diagnostic than in Non-diagnostic condition, β = .17, t(169) = 2.18, p = .031. No other effect was found (all ps>.10). These results shows that ST may have deleterious effects on the capacity to choose low-calorie food of overweight self-perceived individuals, whether they objectively are or not. This investigation is one of a series aimed at determining how believing to be overweight may lead to objective weight gain.





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