The Weight of Words: How Word Choice Impacts the Perception of Weight Stigma in Various Settings
Weight stigma is the systematic stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination against people based on their weight (Link & Phelan, 2001). Weight stigma has been extensively researched as a function of the setting of an interaction or the language used to describe people with high weight status, but few existing studies investigate weight stigma as a function of both of these factors. The present study examined the effects of different interaction settings and weight descriptors on perceptions of weight stigma and characteristics of a person with high weight status. Participants (n = 115) were college students who self-selected to complete the survey for extra credit in an introductory psychology course. The study used vignettes and original survey questions. Eight total vignettes were written comparing the use of four descriptors (“obese”, “overweight”, “fat”, “heavy”) in two interaction settings (medical and social) and participants were randomly assigned to one condition. “Fat” was significantly less appropriate to use in the medical setting than the other three descriptors. Although no significant differences were found between descriptor appropriateness in the social setting, “fat” was again rated as least appropriate to use. No significant differences were found in the suitability of adjectives used to describe the vignette character. These results indicate that “fat” is a generally unacceptable term to use when describing someone with a high weight status, and care should be taken when discussing someone’s weight status in any setting.
Muse, Emily. (May 2017). The Weight of Words: How Word Choice Impacts the Perception of Weight Stigma in Various Settings (Honors Thesis, East Carolina University). Retrieved from the Scholarship. (http://hdl.handle.net/10342/6282.)
Muse, Emily. The Weight of Words: How Word Choice Impacts the Perception of Weight Stigma in Various Settings. Honors Thesis. East Carolina University, May 2017. The Scholarship. http://hdl.handle.net/10342/6282. April 21, 2019.
Muse, Emily, “The Weight of Words: How Word Choice Impacts the Perception of Weight Stigma in Various Settings” (Honors Thesis., East Carolina University, May 2017).
Muse, Emily. The Weight of Words: How Word Choice Impacts the Perception of Weight Stigma in Various Settings [Honors Thesis]. Greenville, NC: East Carolina University; May 2017.
East Carolina University