Accuracy in the estimation of body weight: An alternate test of the motivated-distortion hypothesis




Inaccuracies in self-reported weight are believed to represent a motivated distortion, but cognitive or perceptual biases have not been excluded. We examined the ability of participants to estimate the weight of a target person as a means of distinguishing between motivated distortions and perceptual biases.


Participants (restrained eaters and unrestrained eaters; women and men) estimated the weight of a target individual, which was compared with the actual weight of the target individual.


Restrained and unrestrained eaters did not differ in their estimates of the target's weight, and men underestimated the target's weight to a greater extent than did women.


The pattern of inaccuracies observed does not parallel those found in research on self-reported weight. This observation suggests that perceptual biases do not explain inaccuracies in self-reported weight and that such inaccuracies may be the result of motivated distortions. Issues regarding data analysis and presentation are also discussed. © 2004 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 36: 69–75, 2004.