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Abstract

Objective:

The meaning of the implicit weight attitude in individuals of different weight by distinguishing the contribution of positive and negative associations to the overall measure was investigated.

Design and Methods:

The implicit weight attitude was assessed using the Implicit Association Test. A Rasch model was used to identify which stimuli most affected the implicit measure. Explicit attitudes were assessed with a thin-fat preference scale, and thermometer scales for both thin and fat people. The sample consists of 510 individuals categorized according to their BMI.

Results and Conclusion:

A significant implicit preference for thin relative to fat people was observed in all weight groups. In normal weight and obese individuals, the preference was mostly affected by positive stimuli (more easily associated with thin than with fat people). In underweight individuals, the preference was mostly guided by positive (more easily associated with thin than with fat people) and negative (more easily associated with fat than with thin people) stimuli. In overweight individuals, all stimuli contributed to the preference in a similar way. In all weight groups, the implicit weight attitude correlated with the explicit preference and/or the thin thermometer, whereas it never correlated with the fat thermometer. A pro-thin bias was observed in normal weight and obese individuals, whereas both a pro-thin and an anti-fat bias were observed in underweight individuals. A clear preference for thin people relative to fat people was observed in overweight individuals. Therefore, uncritically interpreting the implicit preference for thin people as a sign of derogating fat people might be misleading.