Weight bias among health professionals specializing in obesity.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


To determine the level of anti-fat bias in health professionals specializing in obesity and identify personal characteristics that correlate with both implicit and explicit bias.

Research methods and procedures

The Implicit Associations Test (IAT) and a self-report questionnaire assessing explicit attitudes, personal experiences with obesity, and demographic characteristics was administered to clinicians and researchers attending the opening session of an international obesity conference (N = 389). The IAT was used to assess overall implicit weight bias (associating "obese people" and "thin people" with "good" vs. "bad") and three ranges of stereotypes: lazy-motivated, smart-stupid, and valuable-worthless. The questionnaire assessed explicit bias on the same dimensions, along with personal and professional experiences with obesity.


Health professionals exhibited a significant pro-thin, anti-fat implicit bias on the IAT. In addition, the subjects significantly endorsed the implicit stereotypes of lazy, stupid, and worthless using the IAT. Level of bias was associated with several personal characteristics. Characteristics significantly predictive of lower levels of implicit anti-fat bias include being male, older, having a positive emotional outlook on life, weighing more, having friends who are obese, and indicating an understanding of the experience of obesity.


Even professionals whose careers emphasize research or the clinical management of obesity show very strong weight bias, indicating pervasive and powerful stigma. Understanding the extent of anti-fat bias and the personal characteristics associated with it will aid in developing intervention strategies to ameliorate these damaging attitudes.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Schwartz, MB; Chambliss, HO; Brownell, KD; Blair, SN; Billington, C

Published Date

  • September 2003

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 11 / 9

Start / End Page

  • 1033 - 1039

PubMed ID

  • 12972672

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1550-8528

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1071-7323

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1038/oby.2003.142


  • eng