Does Size Really Matter: Examining the Effect of the Obesity Stigma and Responsibility Attributions on Schadenfreude

Johnstone, Kyah (2013). Does Size Really Matter: Examining the Effect of the Obesity Stigma and Responsibility Attributions on Schadenfreude Honours Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

       
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Author Johnstone, Kyah
Thesis Title Does Size Really Matter: Examining the Effect of the Obesity Stigma and Responsibility Attributions on Schadenfreude
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2013-10-09
Thesis type Honours Thesis
Supervisor Dr Eric Vanman
Total pages 83
Language eng
Subjects 1701 Psychology
Abstract/Summary Fatism is one of the few remaining forms of accepted prejudice and is increasing even in the midst of the global obesity epidemic. It is suggested that society’s “warlike” approach to the “obesity epidemic” is squashing empathic responses and encouraging schadenfreude towards obese people. Therefore, this study examined the novel area of obesity and schadenfreude. Schadenfreude research has established that both the presence of a stigma, and responsibility for a misfortune increase schadenfreude reactions. Therefore, this study sought to determine if (1) obese targets elicited more schadenfreude and less empathy than normal weight targets and (2) if this effect was magnified by misfortune responsibility attributions. To examine this, sixty-nine participants viewed images of “obese” and “normal weight” targets. Misfortune scenarios, which were either “stigma-responsible” or “non-stigma-responsible” were presented alongside the targets images. Participants’ explicit responses were measured through self-report and Crandall’s (1994) Anti-fat scale, whereas facial EMG measured implicit emotional responses. Three muscle sites; corrugator supercilii, levator labii superioris, zygomaticus major, were measured. It was expected that there would be increased activity for the zygomaticus and levator, and decreased activity for the corrugator, when viewing obese targets. The self-report responses support the hypotheses with participants reporting less sympathy and more responsibility towards obese people’s misfortunes, especially when misfortunes were “stigma responsible”. Emotional reactions are suggested to be a function of misfortune responsibility attributions. EMG results did not fully support these hypotheses. Contrary to predictions, there was increased levator activation towards ‘normal-weight’ targets, and decreased activation towards ‘obese-targets’, especially when experiencing a “stigma-responsible” misfortune. This is discussed in terms of moral outage. Zygomaticus major activation was stronger towards obese targets, as opposed to, normal weight targets but only when participants rated high in dislike of fat. BMI was also found to relate to levator and zygomaticus reactions to obese people. Implications for BMI as a moderator of empathic reactions are discussed. Limitations and directions for future research are discussed.
Keyword obesity stigma
Responsibility attributions
schadenfreude

 
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Created: Wed, 02 Jul 2014, 10:17:59 EST by Danico Jones on behalf of School of Psychology