Background/Objectives: Cross-sectional research has demonstrated weight-related stigma and discrimination, however experimental research providing causal evidence of financial-based weight discrimination is lacking. The aim of these preregistered experiments was to examine whether a novel paradigm in which participants attributed financial rewards and punishments could be used to detect weight bias. Subjects/Methods: One-hundred and twenty-one individuals participated in experiment 1 and one-hundred and sixty-six individuals participated in experiment 2. Both studies were conducted online, and participants were provided with biographies of hypothetical individuals in which weight-status was manipulated (normal weight vs. overweight/obesity) before being asked to provide rewards and punishments on their cognitive performance. In experiment 1 (within-participants design) participants observed one individual they believed to be normal weight and one individual they believed to be overweight/have obesity. In experiment 2 (between-participants design) participants observed one individual whilst also being provided with information about food addiction (Food addiction is real + individual with overweight/obesity vs. food addiction is a myth + individual with overweight/obesity vs control + individual with normal weight). Results: In experiment 1, participants punished individuals who were described as having overweight/obesity to a greater extent to individuals who were normal weight (Hedge’s g = −0.21 [95% CI: −0.02 to −0.41], p = 0.026), but there was no effect on rewards. They were also less likely to recommend individuals with overweight/obesity to pass the tasks (X2(1) = 10.05, p = 0.002). In experiment 2, participants rewarded individuals whom they believed were overweight/obese to a lesser extent than normal-weight individuals (g = 0.49 [95% CI: 0.16 to 0.83]. There was no effect on punishment, nor any impact of information regarding food addiction as real vs a myth. Conclusion: Using a novel discrimination task, these two experiments demonstrate causal evidence of weight-based discrimination in financial decision making.
Bibliographical noteThis article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
- weight bias