The social costs of obesity: A non-reactive field study

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Peter L. Benson
Drew Severs
John Tatgenhorst
Nancy Loddengaard
Cite this article:  Benson, P., Severs, D., Tatgenhorst, J., & Loddengaard, N. (1980). The social costs of obesity: A non-reactive field study. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 8(1), 91-96.


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The major purposes of this study were to investigate whether devaluation of obese persons, a phenomenon demonstrated exclusively in laboratory settings using reactive measures, generalizes to a nonreactive field setting. Seventy public health administrators were asked, via the mail, to help a college junior assess her chances of getting into graduate school and finding employment in this field. Subjects received a cover letter, a standard résumé, and a questionnaire. A picture of the student was affixed to some of the résumés. Subjects were randomly assigned to one of three picture conditions: obese, normal, or no picture. Forty-six percent of the questionnaires were returned. Significantly fewer forms were returned in the obese condition than in the normal and no picture conditions. On both the graduate school and employment questionnaire items, forecasts were considerably more pessimistic than in the other two picture conditions. Implications of these findings are discussed.
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