Assessment of Weight/Shape Implicit Bias Related to Attractiveness, Fear, and Disgust

Research paper by Timothy R. Ritzert, Lisa M. Anderson, Erin E. Reilly, Sasha Gorrell, John P. Forsyth, Drew A. Anderson

Indexed on: 28 Jul '16Published on: 16 May '16Published in: The Psychological Record


Research using the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP) suggests that a positive bias toward thinness, rather than a negative bias toward fatness, might underlie implicitly assessed evaluative responding regarding body image. Because these results contrast with reports of widespread anti-fat attitudes, we aimed to clarify the nature of implicitly assessed evaluative body image responding by using stimuli more central to body image concerns. Seventy-five undergraduates (65.8 % female) completed two IRAPs to examine three aims: (1) create IRAPs sensitive to histories of self-oriented anti-fat responding by using attractiveness-, fear-, and disgust-based stimulus relations; (2) evaluate responses to the different types of stimulus relations on the IRAPs separately and compare them to each other; and (3) examine correlations among IRAP responding and self-report measures of disgust, fear of fatness, and eating pathology. Results showed that participants demonstrated a self-thin-attractive relational bias. Unexpectedly, respondents also showed a self-fat-attractive relational bias and did not display self-fat-disgusting or self-fat-fear responding. IRAP effects for self-thin-attractive stimulus relations were larger than those for self-fat-attractive stimulus relations, suggesting the pro-self bias on these two trial types was larger when relating to oneself as being thin than when relating to oneself as being overweight. Correlations with self-report measures were nonsignificant. Results are discussed in the context of gaining a better understanding of implicit evaluative body image responding and contextual variables that influence IRAP responding.