Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Relational Frame Theory and Weight Stigma: A Perspective-Taking Intervention
by Jacobelli, Jillian B., M.S., University of Louisiana at Lafayette, 2015, 122; 10002388
Abstract (Summary)

Past research has shown a variety of discriminatory behaviors and attitudes towards people labeled overweight or obese. Much research has been conducted on the formation of stigmatizing attitudes towards out-group individuals. Relational Frame Theory, in particular, offers a behavioral analytic account of how human language can evolve into the formation of a conceptualized sense of self and a conceptualized other. It is through this formation of conceptualized self and other that in and out groups are formed.

In this study, female participants reported feelings of similarity and behavioral intentions towards women who were obese before and after exposure to a coordination- or distinction-based experimental manipulation. Both manipulations exposed participants to the targeted women in scenarios that were designed to encourage empathic responses. The distinction condition did so by highlighting distinctive features of the people pictured in the scenarios (weight discrimination); the coordination condition highlighted commonalities with participants (the ability to experience negative events). Based on Relational Frame Theory literature, the coordination group was hypothesized to show significantly more positive change in both similarity and behavioral intentions. However, no significant difference was found between conditions. Both manipulations were effective in promoting positive change in similarity and behavioral intention.

A three-way interaction between time, condition, and participant perceived weight was also found. Women who identified themselves as average weight reported greater changes in feelings of similarity and positive behavioral intentions towards women who were overweight when placed in the coordination condition rather than the distinction condition. However, women who viewed themselves as slightly overweight experienced more positive changes in feelings of similarity and positive behavioral intentions towards women who were overweight when placed in the distinction condition rather than the coordination condition. Given the prevalence of negative body image today, women may have related to the distinction condition easier than expected. This and other variables could account for the lack of significant differences across groups but still accommodate the significant findings across time.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Brown, Amy L.
Commitee: Perkins, David R., Sandoz, Emily K.
School: University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Department: Psychology
School Location: United States -- Louisiana
Source: MAI 55/03M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Behavioral psychology, Social psychology, Psychology
Keywords: Behaviorism, Language, Perspective-taking, Psychology, Relational frame theory, Weight stigma
Publication Number: 10002388
ISBN: 978-1-339-41898-8
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