Author

Rachel Sienko

Date Approved

2017

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Committee Member

Karen Saules, Ph.D., Chair

Committee Member

Stephen Jefferson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Rusty McIntyre, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Valentina Ivezaj, Ph.D.

Abstract

Weight stigma refers to biased treatment or attitudes based on weight. This has been documented to occur in a variety of settings (including relationships) and can result in many negative consequences, but its impact in the contemporary online dating arena is largely unexplored. Therefore, Study 1 of this project examined who experiences weight stigma in online dating and what factors predicted weight stigma. It was hypothesized that a) women would be more likely than men to experience weight stigma; b) compassion, beliefs about obese persons, attitudes toward obese persons, social dominance orientation, narcissism, objectification, self-classification of overweight status, and internalized weight bias would predict likelihood of engaging in weight bias. Study 2 examined attribute trade theory in weight stigma and online dating. It was hypothesized that a) women would need more positive attributes to mitigate overweight status than would men; b) compassion, beliefs about obese persons, attitudes toward obese persons, social dominance orientation, narcissism, objectification, self-classification of overweight status, and internalized weight bias would moderate the relationship between the proportion of expected profile “hits” and the number of factors present that may potentially mitigate weight bias. Data were analyzed via logistic and multiple regressions. In Study 1, variables that predicted weight stigma included anonymous feedback condition, photo weight status, female gender of participants, and thinking of oneself as overweight. In a final regression model, self-classified weight, feedback condition, attitudes toward obese persons, and self-objectification predicted weight bias above and beyond photo weight status. In Study 2, there were no interaction effects, but there were main effects for mitigating factors, beliefs about obese persons, self-objectification, attitudes toward obese persons, and photo gender. Findings illustrated that weight bias appears to occur in online dating scenarios, though some factors may help offset the weight status of the individual.

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