Too heavy to be popular? : lay theories about weight and social status in adolescence
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The present research examines causal lay theories about the relation between weight and social status in adolescence. We hypothesize that these causal schemata are expected to manifest in social information processing in the presence of weight and social status cues. Participants include 80 ninth grade adolescents and 203 college adults. First, in probabilistic judgment scenarios (Part 1), we show that participants expect statistical covariation between weight and social status when inferring others’ social status. Next, in a weight social categorization task (Part 2), participants were more likely to use weight cues to categorize people when they were presented with cues that were inconsistent with their lay theories (e.g., weight causes certain social status). Lastly, in a weight attribution task (Part 3), young adults tended to make more negative, dispositional attribution to overweight targets relative to thin targets when interpreting ambiguously-caused negative social events. As an initial test of the developmental process model, the findings support our theoretical predictions that adolescents’ and young adults’ causal lay theories about weight and social status serve as mental models that guide social information processing in judgment of others’ social status.