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.
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