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Rudd Radar

Positive Media Portrayals of Obese Individuals Reduce Weight Stigma

February 20, 2012

Presenting obese individuals in a positive, non-stereotypical manner in the media could help reduce weight-biased attitudes held by the public, according to a study from the Rudd Center. The study, published online in Health Psychology, investigates the impact on public attitudes and preferences of both stigmatizing and positive portrayals of obese individuals in the media.

The study revealed that those who viewed stigmatizing images expressed stronger negative attitudes toward obese individuals than participants who viewed positive images. Not only did the stigmatizing images lead to stronger negative attitudes towards obese individuals, but participants said that they preferred viewing the respectful images instead of the stigmatizing images.

In order to increase public support for obesity prevention and treatment efforts and reduce societal weight prejudice, the authors suggest that media should make a pledge against perpetuating negative stereotypes and use more respectful portrayals of obese persons.

The study was coauthored by the Rudd Center's Rebecca Pearl, graduate student; Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives; and Kelly Brownell, PhD, Director. Read more.