Weight-Based Discrimination in Occupational Hiring and Helping Behavior1


  • 1

    The authors are grateful for the constructive criticism of two anonymous reviewers on an earlier version of this manuscript.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Viren Swami, Department of Psychology, University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London W1B 2UW. E-mail: virenswami@hotmail.com


This study explored weight-based discrimination using a range of weight categories, as represented by images of real women with known body mass index (BMI). In the first study, 30 men rated each image according to likelihood of occupational hiring for a managerial post. In the second study, 28 men rated the same images for likelihood of helping behavior following a minor accident. Study results showed that individuals with a slender body weight (BMI = 19–20) were most likely to be hired and helped, while obese (BMI > 30) participants were least likely to be hired and helped. However, results also showed that emaciated (BMI < 15) individuals were likely to be discriminated against. Implications for real-life settings are discussed.