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Behavior and Psychology

Visual exposure to obesity: Experimental effects on attraction toward overweight men and mate choice in females



Cultural differences in ideal body weight are well established, but less research has examined attraction toward potential mates of heavier body weights. We examined whether exposure to obesity increases physical attraction toward overweight men.


In Studies 1 and 2, we examined the effect that exposure to obese vs healthy weight men had on female attraction toward an overweight man. Study 3 examined whether females who are regularly exposed to males of heavier body weights reported a greater attraction toward overweight men. Study 4 tested whether females in an online dating study were more likely to choose to date an overweight man, after having been exposed to obesity.


Exposure to obesity altered visual perceptions of what normal and therefore healthy body weights were and this resulted in greater attraction toward an overweight man (Studies 1 and 2). Females regularly exposed to men of heavier body weight reported a greater attraction toward overweight men (Study 3). After exposure to obesity, females in an online dating study were more likely to choose to date an overweight man ahead of a healthy weight man (Study 4).


Exposure to male obesity increases female attraction toward overweight men and may affect mate choice.

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ER and PC conceived the experiments, analysed data and were involved in writing the paper. ER conducted the experiments. This research received no external funding. ER was partly supported by the Wellcome Trust.

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Correspondence to E Robinson.

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Supplementary Information accompanies this paper on International Journal of Obesity website

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Robinson, E., Christiansen, P. Visual exposure to obesity: Experimental effects on attraction toward overweight men and mate choice in females. Int J Obes 39, 1390–1394 (2015).

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