Can merely learning about obesity genes affect eating behavior?

Appetite. 2014 Oct;81:269-76. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2014.06.109. Epub 2014 Jul 2.


Public discourse on genetic predispositions for obesity has flourished in recent decades. In three studies, we investigated behaviorally-relevant correlates and consequences of a perceived genetic etiology for obesity. In Study 1, beliefs about etiological explanations for obesity were assessed. Stronger endorsement of genetic etiology was predictive of a belief that obese people have no control over their weight. In Study 2, beliefs about weight and its causes were assessed following a manipulation of the perceived underlying cause. Compared with a genetic attribution, a non-genetic physiological attribution led to increased perception of control over one's weight. In Study 3, participants read a fictional media report presenting either a genetic explanation, a psychosocial explanation, or no explanation (control) for obesity. Results indicated that participants who read the genetic explanation ate significantly more on a follow-up task. Taken together, these studies demonstrate potential effects of genetic attributions for obesity.

Keywords: Etiological explanations for obesity; Genetic attributions; Genetic essentialism; Overeating behavior; Perceived control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / psychology
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Life Style
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Obesity / genetics*
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Perception
  • Young Adult