Date of Award

2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Jarry, Josee (Psychology)

Keywords

Social psychology.

Rights

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Abstract

Stereotype threat is the experience of apprehension that individuals feel in situations where their behaviour may be seen as evidence confirming a negative stereotype about their group. This threat leads to behaviour consistent with the stereotype. In contrast, unthreatened individuals perform equivalently to members of an unstereotyped group. Overweight and obese individuals are targets of many stereotypes, including the stereotypes that they lack control of their eating, and that they are less intelligent than are normal-weight individuals. Therefore, the purpose of these studies was to investigate the effects of stereotype threat on the eating behaviours and intellectual performance of overweight and obese women. It was hypothesized that overweight and obese females exposed to a stereotype threat would eat significantly more and would perform more poorly on an intellectual measure than would overweight and obese females unexposed to stereotype threat, and normal-weight participants in either condition. The performance of the latter three groups was not expected to differ. Domain identification was included as a moderator, and it was predicted that individuals highly invested in the targeted domain would be most reactive to the threat. In both Studies 1 and 2, stereotype threat was introduced with a vignette detailing discrimination against obese individuals, after which the behaviour of interest (eating in Study 1, intellectual performance in Study 2) was measured. Moreover, in both studies, weight was defined both objectively (body mass index) and subjectively (participants' self-classification). In Study 1, both the objective and the subjective weight analyses revealed that overweight participants ate more in the threat than in the control condition. Moreover, the meaning of this difference was clarified in the subjective weight analyses: overweight participants appeared to restrict their eating in the control condition, so that the disinhibitory effect of stereotype threat simply increased their consumption to the amounts eaten by their normal-weight counterparts, whose eating was unaffected by the experimental manipulation. Study 2 did not find any evidence of stereotype-consistent behaviour (i.e., impaired intellectual performance) in overweight and obese participants following a stereotype threat.

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