Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Assessment of Weight/shape Implicit Bias Related to Attractiveness, Fear, and Disgust

Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Assessment of Weight/shape Implicit Bias Related to Attractiveness, Fear, and Disgust

Article excerpt

Weight- and shape-related bias (1) is prevalent in the general population (Puhl & Heuer, 2009). Individuals often display anti-fat bias, evaluating people who are overweight as lazy, unintelligent, and unsuccessful (Schwartz, Chambliss, Brownell, Blair, & Billington, 2003). Likewise, some individuals exhibit pro-thin bias and respond to thinner individuals as attractive, intelligent, and successful (Anselmi, Vianello, & Robusto, 2013; Carels & Musher-Eizenman, 2010). Moreover, people tend to display anti-fat and pro-thin bias toward themselves, often responding negatively to the possibility of being overweight (e.g., Schwartz, Vartanian, Nosek, & Brownell, 2006). Altogether, research suggests weight/ shape bias regarding others and the self is widespread and may result in weight discrimination (Puhl & Brownell, 2001; Puhl & Heuer, 2009) and unhealthy efforts to maintain a "thin ideal" (Thompson & Stice, 2001).

Weight/shape bias has been assessed using various methods, with most of this research using explicit self-report questionnaires (e.g., Chambliss, Finley, & Blair, 2004). Unfortunately, self-report methods are prone to social desirability influences (Holtgraves, 2004) and may only reflect responding that an individual deems socially acceptable or appropriate. Furthermore, self-reports are limited by one's level of self-awareness (De Houwer, 2002). Therefore, implicit measures, which do not require deliberate introspection and elaborated responding, provide an alternative assessment, potentially free of socially desirable responding (De Houwer, 2002).

Implicit measures have been used extensively to assess weight/shape bias. A commonly used assessment is the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP; Barnes-Holmes et al., 2006). Unlike other implicit measures designed to indirectly measure the strength of associations stored in memory (e.g., the Implicit Association Test, IAT; Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998), the IRAP is built on a contemporary, purely functional, behavior analytic account of language and cognition called relational frame theory (RFT; Hayes, Barnes-Holmes, & Roche, 2001). From this perspective, cognition is conceptualized as contextually situated patterns of behavior that involve responding to stimuli in relation to one another, often in an arbitrary and derived manner (i.e., derived relational responding; Hayes et al., 2001). According to RFT, the action of deriving stimulus relations serves as the basis for several human psychological processes, including cognition (Hughes, Barnes-Holmes, & Vahey, 2012).

The IRAP is a computerized assessment that presents trials of stimulus relations (e.g., fat-bad; thin-good) to which participants are required to respond quickly and accurately by selecting one of two responses (e.g., similar or opposite). On half of the trials, required responses are designed to be consistent with hypothesized preexisting learning histories (often referred to as consistent trials). On the other half of trials, required responses are designed to be inconsistent with hypothesized preexisting learning histories (often referred to as inconsistent trials). Individuals tend to evidence shorter response latencies when responding consistently rather than inconsistently, with preexisting learning histories (Barnes-Holmes et al., 2006). This phenomenon is termed the IRAP effect.

The specific RFT account of the IRAP effect is the relational elaboration and coherence (REC) model (Barnes-Holmes, Barnes-Holmes, Stewart, & Boles, 2010). According to the REC model, the behavioral outcome obtained on the IRAP (i.e., the speed of a response on a given trial) is a function of both the measurement context and the respondent's learning history related to the stimulus relation presented (Hughes et al., 2012). Under time pressure (e.g., < 2,000 ms) and when all other variables (e.g., relational complexity) are held constant, the REC model predicts that pre-experimentally established verbal relations (i. …

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