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Shedding the Pounds but not the Stigma: Negative Attributions as a Function of a Target's Method of Weight Loss


Brent Mattingly, Department of Psychology, Ashland University, 210 Andrews Hall, 401 College Avenue, Ashland, OH 44805, USA. E-mail:


Overweight individuals are perceived as possessing several negative attributes, which often leads them to attempt to lose weight. The current research examined if method of weight loss influences participants' attributions and perceptions of a formerly overweight target individual. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: weight loss via diet/exercise, weight loss via surgery, or control (no description of weight loss). Results indicated that, in general, the surgery targets were perceived more negatively than the diet/exercise targets. Moreover, diet/exercise targets were perceived as being less healthy, and, for female participants, more responsible for their weight than control targets. These data suggest that individuals who lose weight are still prone to the negative attributions associated with the overweight.