People (Wrongly) Attribute Personality Traits to Body Shapes, Study Finds

By Perry, Susan | MinnPost.com, November 14, 2018 | Go to article overview

People (Wrongly) Attribute Personality Traits to Body Shapes, Study Finds


Perry, Susan, MinnPost.com


When we meet people for the first time, we tend to subconsciously make instant assumptions about their personality — such as whether they are lazy, self-confident, quarrelsome or dependable — based, at least partly, on their body shape, according to a study published recently in the journal Psychological Science.

The findings aren’t entirely unexpected. Previous research has already shown that people form first impressions of others’ personalities, including their trustworthiness and emotional stability, based solely (and bogusly) on the shape of their faces. Studies have also demonstrated that we tend to label obese people as being lazy and incompetent based only on the size of their body.

This new study, however, looked at the role that more nuanced aspects of body shape — beyond weight — play in our stereotyping of people’s personalities.

“Our research shows that people infer a wide range of personality traits just by looking at the physical features of a particular body,” said Ying Hu, the study’s lead author and a psychologist at the University of Texas at Dallas, in a released statement.

The start of the stereotypes

Needless to say, this study’s finding is discouraging, for it underscores the pervasiveness of a long-debunked psychological theory about body shape and personality that was first proposed by Dr. William Sheldon, an American psychologist and physician back in 1940.

Sheldon believed that the human shape could be categorized into three “somatotypes,” which could be used to predict a person’s temperament, moral character and mental abilities. In his thinking, mesomorphs (broad-shouldered, well-muscled, straight-backed) were energetic, courageous and desirable. Ectomorphs (thin, usually tall, lightly muscled) were neurotic, introverted and intellectual. Endomorphs (round-shaped, usually short, “soft”-muscled) were lazy, dependent and undesirable.

It took a couple of decades, but Sheldon’s somatotypes were eventually — and thoroughly — discredited — but, unfortunately, not before they had taken hold of the public’s imagination. The categories still play a role in pop psychology, and are referenced by people advising on all sorts of things, including how to dress, how to eat and how to choose a sports activity.

How the study was done

For their study, Hu and her colleagues used laser scans of human bodies to create 140 realistic, three-dimensional body models. Half were female, half were male.

The researchers then showed these models (each from two different angles) on a computer screen to 76 undergraduates students. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

People (Wrongly) Attribute Personality Traits to Body Shapes, Study Finds
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.