Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Assessment of Implicit Anti-Fat and Pro-Slim Attitudes in Young Women Using the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Assessment of Implicit Anti-Fat and Pro-Slim Attitudes in Young Women Using the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure

Article excerpt

A growing interest in the study of attitudes towards weight and body image has been observed in recent years (e.g., Brownell, Puhl, Schwarz, & Rudd, 2005; Rozin & Fallon, 1988; Schwarz, O'Neal Chambliss, Brownell, Blair, Billington, 2003). Substantial evidence has accumulated that points to the existence of a negative attitudinal bias towards overweight and obese people (anti-fat bias). That is, in general, overweight and obese people are viewed as less attractive, competent, and successful (Crandall, 1994; Schwarz, Vartanian, Nosek, & Brownell, 2006; Teachman, Gapinski, Brownell, Rawlins, & Jeyaram, 2003). Different authors have pointed out that these negative attitudes in the population may foster discrimination against overweight and obese people in different contexts (school, work, social relations, etc.) (see: Puhl & Brownell, 2001; Puhl & Heuer, 2009), with negative consequences on their well-being (e.g., Magallares, Morales, & Rubio, 2011, 2014). There is also evidence for a positive attitudinal bias towards thin people (pro-thin or pro-slim bias), who are viewed as more attractive, competent, and successful (Anselmi, Vianello, & Robusto, 2013; Carels & Musher-Eizenman, 2010;). Indeed, a common view in the field is the so-called idealization of thinness. According to it, being thin would become an ideal that teenage and young adult women feel socially pressured to pursue (Thompson & Stice, 2001). The internalization of the thin ideal is associated to high levels of dissatisfaction with one's own body (even for women who keep a healthy weight) as well as to an increased risk for the development of eating disorders (Stice & Whitenton, 2002; Thompson & Stice, 2001).

A substantial part of the research on body image attitudes has been carried out with questionnaires and other self-report measures (e.g., Crandall, 1994). Although these instruments are useful and convenient, especially for obtaining information from large samples, it has been questioned to which extent they are appropriate for the assessment of attitudes regarding socially controversial issues (e.g. areas that might involve social prejudice) (e.g., Dovidio, Kawakami, Johnson, Johnson, & Howard, 1997). Participants might modify their responding in order to present themselves in a socially desirable manner, in accordance with the social norm, or just try to respond in accordance with what they believe the researcher is expecting from them (Holtgraves, 2004). Even when participants respond honestly, it is not clear to which extent they can accurately introspect and be aware of their potential social biases (Nisbett & Wilson, 1977; Wilson, 2009). These limitations have been addressed by utilizing research procedures that rely on behavioral measures other than self-report (like response latency and response accuracy) under time pressure conditions. These procedures, usually termed implicit measures, are supposed to assess automatic, immediate, non-declarative attitudes (Fazio & Olson, 2003). They do not require the participant to deliberately evaluate their preference and consciously produce a value judgment, but their attitudes are inferred from their performance in the experimental task. For instance, participants' implicit racial bias would be inferred from the difference in their speed in categorizing images of white people with positive attributes (and of black people with negative attributes) compared to their speed in categorizing images of black people with positive attributes (and of white people with negative attributes). Being faster in the former would be indicative of an anti-black/pro-white racial bias.

The most popular of implicit attitude measures is the Implicit Association Test (IAT: Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwarz, 1998). It is a computerized task based on the assumption that participants should be faster in categorizing concepts that are strongly associated in their memory, as compared to concepts that are not. …

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