Automatic and controlled components of prejudice toward fat people: Evaluation versus stereotype activation

Gayle R. Bessenoff, Jeffrey Sherman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Scopus citations


This study investigated automatic and controlled components of anti-fat attitudes, the relationship between these components, and the extent to which each component predicts prejudicial behavior. Participants were primed with pictures of fat and thin women. Automatic activation of both evaluative responses and Stereotypic knowledge were examined with lexical decision judgments on fat-stereotypical, thin-stereotypical, and stereotype-irrelevant trait words. Results showed greater automatic activation of negative evaluations to fat than thin women. Although, in general, automatic measures were found to be unrelated to self-reported anti-fat attitudes, one subcomponent of automatic evaluation was correlated with higher expressed dislike of fat persons. In addition, the automatic but not the controlled attitudinal measure predicted how far participants chose to sit from a fat woman. No stereotypicality effects were observed. Implications for reducing prejudice toward fat persons are discussed. Gayle R. Bessenoff and Jeffrey W. Sherman, Department of Psychology, Northwestern University.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-353
Number of pages25
JournalSocial Cognition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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