The effects of perpetrator sex and weight on punishment for transgressions
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Overweight and obese individuals are often considered the last acceptable victims of discrimination. The current study assessed potential legal ramifications of weight discrimination by asking participants to evaluate purported criminal offenders of different body weights. In a between-subject design, undergraduate participants considered various crime scenarios accompanied by pictures of the purported perpetrators. Perpetrators varied in terms of weight (normal weight vs. overweight) and sex (males vs. females). Participants rated the severity of the crimes and assigned a jail sentence and/or fine to each perpetrator, to assess the effect of the weight of the perpetrator in a simulated “criminal trial” setting. Controlling for individual differences in disgust sensitivity, a planned contrast test found that females with high BMI were assigned greater sentences than low BMI females, low BMI males, and high BMI males, respectively. The interaction between perpetrator sex and perpetrator BMI was marginally statistically significant. These findings suggest that a perpetrator’s sex and weight may influence the punishment they are thought to observe, with overweight females targeted for particularly harsh punishments.
Subjectpsychology, social psychology, anti-fat bias, weight discrimination, discrimination, crime, criminal justice, law
Smarr, Jessica Layne (2014). The effects of perpetrator sex and weight on punishment for transgressions. Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. Available electronically from