Positive media portrayals of obese persons: impact on attitudes and image preferences

Health Psychol. 2012 Nov;31(6):821-9. doi: 10.1037/a0027189. Epub 2012 Feb 6.


Objective: The purpose of this research was to assess the impact of nonstereotypical, positive media portrayals of obese persons on biased attitudes, as well as propose a change in media practices that could reduce public weight bias and consequent negative health outcomes for those who experience weight stigma.

Method: Two online experiments were conducted in which participants viewed either a stigmatizing or a positive photograph of an obese model. In Experiment 1 (N = 146), participants viewed a photograph of either a Caucasian or African American obese woman; in Experiment 2 (N = 145), participants viewed either a Caucasian male or female obese model. Multiple linear regression models were used to analyze outcomes for social distance attitudes toward the obese models depicted in the images, in addition to other negative attitudes and image preferences.

Results: Participants who viewed the stigmatizing images endorsed stronger social distance attitudes and more negative attitudes toward obese persons than participants who viewed the positive images, and there was a stronger preference for the positive images than the stigmatizing images. These results were consistent regardless of the race or gender of the obese model pictured.

Conclusion: The findings indicate that more positive media portrayals of obese individuals may help reduce weight stigma and its associated negative health outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude*
  • Body Image / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Media*
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Social Desirability
  • Stereotyping