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Implicit anti-fat bias in physical educators: physical attributes, ideology and socialization



To investigate the implicit and explicit prejudice of physical education (PE) students before, and following extensive professional training, and to examine the relationship of anti-fat prejudice to relevant psychosocial predictors.


Implicit and explicit anti-fat prejudice of year one and three PE students (cross-sectional sample) were assessed and compared to a similarly matched (age, body mass index (BMI), education) sample of psychology students.


Three hundred and forty-four university students, 180 PE students, 164 psychology students (67% female, mean age 20 years, BMI: mean 23.18 kg/m2).


Measures of implicit and explicit anti-fat prejudice were administered to PE and psychology students in either their second week, or near completion of their third year, of university study. Physical identity, body esteem and social dominance orientation (SDO) were assessed in order to establish their relationship with anti-fat bias.


PE students displayed higher levels of implicit anti-fat bias than psychology students, and other health professionals. Additionally, year three PE students displayed higher levels of implicit anti-fat attitudes than year one PE students. The higher implicit anti-fat biases exhibited by year three PE students were associated with SDO, and lower body esteem.


Physical educators, and particularly those more socialized in the PE environment, display strong negative prejudice toward obese individuals that is greater than that displayed by other groups. These prejudices appear to be supported by an over-investment in physical attributes, and ideological beliefs.

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Correspondence to K S O'Brien.

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O'Brien, K., Hunter, J. & Banks, M. Implicit anti-fat bias in physical educators: physical attributes, ideology and socialization. Int J Obes 31, 308–314 (2007).

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