"Obese people" vs "Fat people": Impact of group label on weight bias

School of Psychology, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.
Eating and weight disorders: EWD (Impact Factor: 0.79). 09/2010; 15(3):e195-8.
Source: PubMed


The present study examined whether the terms "obese people" vs "fat people" impact evaluations of a target group.
Participants answered a number of questions about obese people (N=300) or fat people (N=125), including how favorable their attitudes are toward the target group, how disgusted they are with the target group, and how similar they are to the target group.
Compared to fat people, obese people were rated as less favorable and as more disgusting. In addition, participants saw themselves as being less similar to obese people than to fat people, and as less likely to become an obese person than a fat person.
Overall, the term "obese people" evokes stronger negative evaluations than the term "fat people." Researchers investigating weight bias should be aware that the specific terms used to refer to overweight and obese people can impact study outcomes and interpretations.

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    • "Identifying the preferred language or terminology for health professionals when discussing weight has been the focus of a number recent studies (Thomas et al. 2008; Dutton et al. 2010; Vartanian 2010; Gray et al. 2011; Volger et al. 2011); these authors all recognise the sensitive and emotive nature of the subject, and the importance of developing, what Dutton et al. (2010) refer to as a 'shared terminology', to enhance rapport between patient and health professional. These studies were consistent in finding 'obesity' as the least favoured term, with 'weight' being the generally preferred terminology (Thomas et al. 2008; Dutton et al. 2010; Vartanian 2010; Gray et al. 2011; Volger et al. 2011). The current analysis identified at least three techniques employed, intentionally or otherwise, by health professionals, when talking with women about their weight; avoidance of the topic, framing discussions within a medicalised model by referring to BMI, and labelling women as 'high risk'. "
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