Do media portrayals of obesity influence support for weight-related medical policy?

Journal Article (Journal Article)


The purpose of this research was to examine the impact of nonstigmatizing visual portrayals of obesity on support for a discriminatory weight-based medical policy.


Participants read an online news story about a policy to deny fertility treatment to obese women that was accompanied by a nonstigmatizing, stigmatizing, or no image of an obese couple. A balanced discussion of the policy was presented, with information both questioning the policy as discriminatory and supporting the policy because of weight-related medical complications.


Results revealed that participants who viewed the nonstigmatizing image were less supportive of the policy to deny obese women fertility treatment and recommended the policy less strongly than participants who viewed the stigmatizing image. Furthermore, weaker perceptions of medical risk mediated the effect of the nonstigmatizing image on policy ratings.


The findings indicate that simply eliminating stigmatizing media portrayals of obesity may help reduce bias.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Brochu, PM; Pearl, RL; Puhl, RM; Brownell, KD

Published Date

  • February 2014

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 33 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 197 - 200

PubMed ID

  • 23668850

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1930-7810

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0278-6133

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1037/a0032592


  • eng