Perceptions of obesity in self and others

Jade Keightley, Anna Chur-Hansen, Rita Princi, Gary A. Wittert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To explore the effects of social conditioning in an obese population on self-perception and beliefs about the causes of obesity for self and others. Participants and design: Eighty-seven obese adults (29 males and 58 females) aged between 18 and 66 years from an Australian metropolitan hospital's obesity clinic and 50 healthy weight adults (15 males and 35 females) aged between 17 and 45 years from two undergraduate university courses participated in a cross-sectional study. Results: Obese participants were more likely to attribute internal factors as the cause of obesity in others (X2(1, n = 77) = 24.6, p ≤ 0.001) but considered internal and external factors equally as causing their own obesity (X2(1, n = 80)=.02, p ≥ 0.05). Weight locus of control was not related to body size in obese participants however, it was related to psychological well-being (r = -0.38, n = 68, p ≤ 0.005). Obese participants were unable to accurately identify their own current (t(83) = 84.54, p ≤ 0.01) and desired body shape (t(85) = 50.16, p ≤ 0.01). Significant differences were present when rating female body shapes, with female obese participants unable to accurately identify body shapes compared to the healthy weight controls. Additionally, female perceptions of overweight appear to be normalising; they were unable to correctly discriminate between differing body shapes. Healthy weight males also exhibited this effect. Conclusions: Attribution of obesity to external factors is a likely barrier to weight loss, whilst a higher internal weight locus of control and associated psychological well-being may facilitate weight loss. Consideration of these factors may lead to better individual treatment outcomes. The normalisation of perceptions of weight, likely due to social conditioning, has implications for identification of at risk individuals and public health initiatives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e341-e349
JournalObesity Research and Clinical Practice
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 1 Oct 2011


  • Beliefs
  • Obesity
  • Psychology
  • Self-perception
  • Social conditioning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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