Does Weight Influence How We Perceive People?

Are people more likely to find a defendant guilty if he or she is obese? It depends.

In an online study, researchers gave 471 adults a vignette describing a case of check fraud beneath a mug shot of one of four defendants: a lean male, an obese male, a lean female, and an obese female. (The obese male and female were digitally altered versions of the lean male and female.)


When the defendant was female, men were more likely to find her guilty if she was obese than if she was lean. The bias held whether the men doing the judging were lean or obese. However, obesity had no impact on how the men viewed male defendants or on how women viewed male or female defendants.

What to do: Defense lawyers (and others), take note: weight bias may influence how we perceive other people.

Source: Int. J. Obesity 2013. doi:10.1038/ijo.2012.211.


Other relevant links:

2 Replies to “Does Weight Influence How We Perceive People?”

  1. Quick! Everybody trot out their personal opinions about how men suck! 😉
    Look for the Wikipedia short entry on “Confirmation Bias” and see if that doesn’t describe your reaction here… basic human nature we all exhibit.

    I wonder if this study was done about the time in 2013 there was that movie (Identity Thief- thank you IMDB) with Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy where she (obese woman) chronically commits theft and fraud… like check fraud. I didn’t see the movie myself but I remember the commercials. I wonder if any of the 471 people here maybe remembered the commercials (that may have been on that exact same time)? With such a small pool size I wonder how much impact it could have. Just a question.

    One study really proves nothing, since it is so hard to isolate cause and effect having removed every other variable. So I caution against jumping to conclusions like it’s an Olympic event.

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