The Ideology of Anti-Fat Attitudes1

Authors

  • Christian Crandall,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychology, Yale University
      Address all correspondence regarding this article to either Christian S. Crandall or Monica Biernat, Department of Psychology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.
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  • Monica Biernat

    1. Department of Psychology, University of Michigan
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  • 1

    The authors wish to thank Rick Blake, Eaaron Henderson and Marita Rosch for help in constructing the questionnaire. Judy Shapiro was instrumental with advice and support at all phases of this study. This paper profited from comments by Carol Cornell, Adam Lehman, Mel Manis, Hazel Markus, Judith Rodin and several anonymous reviewers.

Address all correspondence regarding this article to either Christian S. Crandall or Monica Biernat, Department of Psychology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Abstract

We surveyed over 1,000 undergraduates about their attitudes toward fatness and fat people. A consistent pattern of attitudes emerged: People who were anti-fat shared an ideologically conservative outlook on life. Those who disliked fatness tended to be politically conservative, racist, in favor of capital punishment, and less supportive of nontraditional marriages. By contrast, negative attitudes toward fatness were not associated with conservative sexual attitudes (which are less likely to be ideologically based), although they were related to less tolerance of sexuality among the handicapped, homosexuals, and the elderly. Antifat attitudes seem to be based on ideology, and not on one's own weight situation: Anti-fat attitudes were virtually unrelated to one's own degree of fatness. The relationship between ideology and anti-fat attitudes was stronger among men than among women, which indicates that a variety of other, perhaps more self-relevant factors, play into the anti-fat attitudes of women. For example, when women held a conservative, anti-fat ideology, and were in the heaviest weight group, they suffered from low self-esteem. This relationship did not hold for men, indicating that the relationship between ideology and self-derogation may be based on the greater self-relevance weight holds for women. In a second study, we found that anti-fat attitudes were substantially correlated with authoritarianism, indicating that prejudice against fat people may be another manifestation of a collection of political and social attitudes predicated on conventionalism and a narrow latitude of acceptance of others' behaviors.

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