Along with an introductory PowerPoint presentation, the study used three separate sets of questionnaire booklets. The first questionnaire booklet collected demographic information (i.e., age, gender, ethnicity, weight, and height) and had 45 distracter questions designed to boost the belief in the bogus cover story for the study (Cognitive Styles in Personnel Selection). The majority of the distracter questions came from the rational-experiential inventory (18) which assesses whether people perceive themselves to be intuitive-experiential or analytical-rational thinkers. Additional distracter items were randomly selected from authoritarian, socially desirable responding, and self-esteem scales.
Candidate resume and personnel selection booklet. A second questionnaire package contained six two-page booklets. Each booklet contained a job candidate resume (first page) and personnel suitability rating scale (second page). The bogus resumes were constructed so as to be equivalent in terms of job candidate age, gender and ethnicity (all were white females), degree qualifications, work history (career experience and area of expertise), and self described personal qualities. Each of the resumes was formatted differently, with different font and/or typesetting. For added authenticity, the bogus names and contact details of the job candidates were crossed out with a black marker pen to make it appear we were protecting the anonymity of the job candidate. After experimenter agreement was reached on the content of the resumes, we pretested the resumes for equivalence by asking 18 people (nonparticipants in the study) to individually rate each resume on the basis of qualifications, experience, and candidate self-identified personal and professional qualities using a 7-point Likert scale. We then pooled scores for each resume and conducted a simple ANOVA across all resumes. No significant differences were found between resume ratings (P > 0.05).
Candidate resume photos. Each of the resumes had a 4 × 4 cm2 passport-style photograph of a bogus job candidate (shown from the midsection up) attached to the top right-hand corner of the page. To control for facial appearance, before (presurgery) and after (postsurgery) photos of bariatric surgery patients were used (We initially sought photos of obese and nonobese females that might be matched in terms of attractiveness, dress standard, age, and ethnicity. However, because obesity is seen as unattractive by society in general, our initial attempts to find average weight target photos of matching attractiveness (ratings) to obese target photos was problematic. Similarly, attempts at computer morphing techniques to create average weight figures from obese target photos and vice versa, to control for basic facial appearance, appeared fake and indeed morphed. This problem has been noted elsewhere (19), and we thought it a potential confound worth avoiding here. Hence the use of pre–post bariatric surgery targets.). This allowed us to create two corresponding versions of each resume: one containing a picture of a target in their presurgery “obese” state, and another containing the same target's postsurgery “normal-weight” photo. Thus, we could compare candidate job suitability ratings for the same target, but at different weight states (obese vs. normal weight), and in doing so overcome difficulties in matching different targets. From 132 sets of female before and after bariatric surgery photos found on the internet, we selected 30 sets that were of similar age, race (European), clothing style, and BMI. From these 30 sets, we removed those that differed greatly between pre-/postsurgery pairs in hair or clothing styles. Targets were selected who had not had dramatic transformations in facial appearance or attractiveness from pre- to postsurgery. Six sets of pre- and postsurgery target photos (12 different photos) were finally selected and rated (by 18 people) for equivalence in clothing, facial expression, body size, age, and attractiveness. No differences were found between ratings of the six targets pre- or postsurgery photos. The maximum time elapsed between the pre- and postsurgery photos was 24 months. Targets' BMI's, as reported on their internet sites, ranged from 37.8 to 41.1 presurgery and 22.4 to 24.4 postsurgery. Age of the targets presurgery ranged from 29 to 32 years. All photo targets were contacted and gave permission for their photographs to be used in this study.
Two final complementary sets of six resumes were constructed. The two sets of resumes were identical with the exception of the target photos placed on them. On two of the resumes in each set, we placed a presurgery (obese) target's photo. Photos of these same targets postsurgery (at normal weight) were placed in the other set of resumes. The remaining two resumes in each set of six had 2 normal-weight postsurgery targets. Thus, in each of the final sets of resumes there were two obese target photos and four normal-weight postsurgery target photos, all depicting different individuals. Assignment of photographs to resumes was counterbalanced.
Discrimination measures. The second page of the candidate resume and personnel selection booklet contained five questions with Likert scales (candidate suitability ratings) designed to assess antifat discriminatory behavior. The first question asked participants to rank the job candidates in order from 1 to 6 (1 = best, 6 = worst). The remaining four questions asked the participant's to rate the job candidate on their leadership potential (“Is this someone people in the company will follow? Rate what you think their leadership potential is from 1 to 6, 1 = low leadership potential, 6 = high leadership potential”); predicted success (“What do you predict the long-term career success of this candidate will be, 1 = very unsuccessful, 6 = very successful”); likely to select (“Although you would not make the final decision in a personnel selection, how likely would you be to select this candidate for this position, 1 = very unlikely, 6 = very likely”); and salary recommendation in New Zealand dollars (“What would you recommend as a starting salary offer for this candidate if they were to be employed; 1 = $70,000, 2 = $75,000, 3 = $80,000, 4 = $85,000, 5 = $90,000, 6 = $95,000”). Participants were given 2 min to scan all six resumes, and 2 min to complete the five suitability ratings for the six candidates.
Explicit antifat measures. Booklet three contained the explicit and implicit measures of antifat attitudes. Crandall's 13-item antifat attitudes questionnaire was used to assess explicit antifat attitudes (13). This measure is comprised of three subscales, Dislike, Fear of Fat, and Willpower. The Dislike subscale assesses an individual's antipathy toward fat people (e.g., “I don't like fat people much”). The Willpower subscale assesses the belief that being overweight is a matter of personal control or lack thereof (e.g., “Fat people tend to be fat pretty much through their own fault”). Items were scored on a 10-point Likert scale (0 = very strongly disagree, 9 = very strongly agree). The Fear of Fat scale was not relevant to the current study and not used. In the present sample, Cronbach's α's for the Dislike and Willpower subscales were 0.84 and 0.83, respectively.
Implicit antifat measures. The IAT measures the time it takes respondents to correctly categorize positive or negative attributes when paired with a specific category or target (fat vs. thin targets). Studies examining intergroup prejudice and bias typically find that participants respond more quickly when positive attributes (e.g., good and excellent) are paired with in-group identifiers (e.g., us or we) and when negative attributes (e.g., bad or terrible) are associated with out-group identifiers (e.g., they or them). Conversely, reaction times are slower when negative attributes (e.g., bad or nasty) are paired with in-group identifiers and when positive attributes are paired with out-group identifiers. Thus, responses are faster when they are congruent and slower when incongruent with associations held in memory. The antifat IAT uses “fat people” and “thin people” as target categories that are then paired with attribute categories of interest (15). The two attribute categories of interest within this study were chosen to specifically assess the attitudes toward (“good” vs. “bad”) and beliefs about (“motivated” vs. “lazy”) fat vs. thin people. To score the IAT, the number of words correctly categorized when positive and negative attributes are paired with fat and thin identifiers, respectively, are subtracted from the number of correct categorization when negative and positive attributes are paired with fat and thin identifiers, respectively. Higher scores on the IAT indicate greater antifat bias.
We advertised the study as Cognitive Styles in Personnel Selection and told prospective participants that we were examining whether intuitive vs. analytical decision makers are better at making real decisions in a time pressured personnel selection task. Upon arrival participants were seated at individual tables ∼2 m apart. The experimenter described the bogus nature of the study to participants via a PowerPoint presentation. Within this presentation, the experimenter introduced the typical role of a human resource personnel selection specialist (job recruiter). Participants were then told that, “We are going to present you with 6 resumes of job applicants which you are going to have to evaluate and make employment recommendations on, according to five personnel selection criteria. These were actual job candidates provided to us by a well known online recruitment company (e.g., monster.com©). And we know which candidate actually got the job.”
Following the study introduction, questionnaire booklet one was handed out and completed. Participants where then shown via a PowerPoint presentation the job advertisement (a modified version of a real job advertisement) for which candidates were supposedly applying. The position was for a mid-level managerial position in a large department store chain. After outlining a number of stereotypical qualities required for the managerial role, the job advertisement asked candidates to submit a cover letter outlining why they are suitable for the position, and a one-page resume with academic qualifications, personal qualities, and career experience. Two references from previous employers and a small passport sized photo were also requested by the job advertisement.
After going over the details of the job advertisement, we told participants that we had removed the cover letter and two references from the applications as these were biased sources of information with the candidate and referees tending to over-inflate the candidates qualities. We then told participants that in order to simulate the time pressured role of a recruiter, they would only be given 2 min to preview all six resumes, after which they would be given another 2 min in which to evaluate and rate all six job candidates on the five candidate suitability scales. The five rating criteria were explained in detail to participants. During the candidate rating task, participants were alerted to the time in 20-s intervals to ensure they were not spending a disproportionate amount of time evaluating any one candidate. The second questionnaire booklet (resume package) was then handed out. The assignment of resume package to participant was in effect double blind, as packages were premade and sealed in large nondescript brown envelopes, and distributed randomly.
Following completion of the candidate suitability rating task and collection of the resume packages, participants were asked to write down what they thought the study was about. Participants were then given the final questionnaire booklet to complete and were administered the IAT. This study was approved by the University of Otago Ethics Committee.
As we were interested in the differences between targets (job candidates) when they were presented as either obese or normal weight, we restricted our analysis to the participant ratings of these targets. Thus, the participants' candidate ratings are of the four targets presented as both obese and normal weight. Based on statistical methods used in previous work (15), individual participant IATs containing >35% errors were excluded from analyses. Similarly, participant IATs with fewer than eight categorized words on a given IAT page were excluded from analyses. There was no difference between resume groups in the number of IATs incorrectly completed with exclusion rates for each similar to previous work (good/bad 4%; motivated/lazy 3%). There was no significant difference between resume groups in overall number of words correctly categorized for the IATs.
To increase reliability of the discrimination measure, we created a summary variable (total rating score) comprised of the mean of the four comparable rating scales (i.e., leadership potential, predicted long-term success, likely to select, salary; Cronbach's α = 0.88). One-way ANOVAs were conducted to assess differences between resume groups on demographics and prejudice measures. Paired samples t-tests were used to examine differences in candidate suitability ratings for obese vs. normal targets (mean ± s.d.). Pearson's correlations coefficients were used to examine the relationships between candidate ratings and explicit and implicit antifat measures.
In order to form an overall scale of explicit antifat attitudes and an overall scale of implicit antifat attitudes for use as independent variables in regression analyses (and thus avoid potential colinearity problems), the two explicit subscales of Crandall's measure were combined to create an overall explicit score, and the two implicit subscales of the IAT were combined to create an overall implicit score. These two resulting scales had good internal consistency (α = 0.86 and α = 0.77, respectively). A factor analysis using promax rotation. yielded two factors corresponding to the two overall measures of explicit and implicit antifat attitudes described above. Multiple linear regression analyses were conducted to examine whether explicit and/or implicit antifat attitudes predicted antifat discrimination.