Fattributions: Exploring a female target-driven communication strategy for reducing blame in a fatist culture
beliefs about weight controllability
Committee ChairEmmers-Sommer, Tara
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis study explores whether anti-fat bias is reduced when obesity in women is perceived to be the result of an uncontrollable versus controllable factor. An experiment was designed to test whether manipulating the causal attribution in favor of the target (i.e., offering an uncontrollable attribution that removes all responsibility from the target for her obesity) would have an impact on perceivers' anti-fat attitudes, beliefs about weight controllability, and tendency to blame a woman for her weight. The exploration of this topic was conducted within a greater context of obesity-related issues including body image, social stigma, responsibility, and a culture of blame. Equally important in this endeavor was gaining insight into the reasons why women are blamed more for their obesity than their male counterparts. Attribution theory (Heider, 1958) serves as the primary theoretical framework. One hundred and eighty undergraduates from a large, southwestern university participated in the study. Participants were randomly assigned to one of the following six conditions, five of which contained a version of the treatment embedded in an essay: Uncontrollable attribution, controllable attribution, potentially controllable attribution, manifest mention of weight, no mention of weight or control. The potentially controllable attribution was ultimately determined to be insufficiently manipulated and responses generated in response to it were not included in the data analysis. All participants completed a survey comprised of various measures designed to gauge anti-fat attitudes, beliefs about weight controllability, and blame tendency. A mediated model examining the relationships among the above three variables was also tested. Additionally, participants completed the Obesity-Induced Blame Scale (OIBS); a measure designed for the present study to test the degree to which a woman will be blamed and held responsible for her weight. While some results failed to statistically support the usefulness of causal attributions that remove controllability from the woman for her weight, other results demonstrated the embedded anti-fat bias some individuals hold for obese women. Findings that emerged from the qualitative data were especially revealing. The social implications of anti-fatism, beliefs about weight controllability, and blame tendency, as well as all key findings, are discussed.