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Personal responsibility and the body: Challenging normative discontent through critical obesity literature

Thomas, Justine (2012) Personal responsibility and the body: Challenging normative discontent through critical obesity literature. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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Contemporary Western society positions the individual as responsible for themselves and their bodies, with weight understood as being personally controllable. This study sought to explore the previously undiscussed relationship between obesity stigma and normative discontent by considering the idea that information challenging contemporary beliefs about obesity and weight might assist women of all sizes in feeling less accountable for their bodies. 70 women from Perth, Western Australia (M age= 26, SD=10.26) participated in this study. Participants were randomly allocated to three groups: 27 read an article prioritising scientific information that highlighted the powerful biological factors that can counteract weight loss attempts, 20 participants read an anecdotal article demonstrating the life-changing amounts of commitment required to maintain weight loss, and 23 participants readd a control article that represented contemporary views. Although expected, no significant differences were found between groups for antifat attitudes or responsibility for weight. The Scientific Evidence condition scored significantly higher than the Personal Story condition for worry about imperfection and significantly lower for overall appearance ratings. Unexpectedly, the Scientific Evidence condition scored significantly lower than the Control for self esteem. The results are discussed in the context of the complexity of delivering critical obesity messages that alleviate the burden of responsibility.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Psychology
Supervisor(s): Donaghue, Ngaire
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