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Abstract

Personal experience with weight-based stigma is negatively associated with self-esteem (Myers & Rosen, 1999). Our study examines how self-esteem is affected by exposure to weight-based stigma communication that is directed at another person. Using Smith’s (2007) stigma communication framework, we created a 2 (Stigma level: high, low) x 2 (Gender of stigmatized person: male, female) x 2 (Body of stigmatized person: large, small) posttest-only experiment. Participants’ self-esteem was highest after seeing a small body subjected to intense stigma and lowest after seeing a large body subjected to intense stigma. Additionally, we observed three-way interactions affecting the perceptions of two stigma-communication message features: marking and linking to social peril. Our results suggest that perceptions about stigma communication vary by the stigma level and the stigma target’s attributes. Implications are discussed.

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