Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Communication Studies and Theatre

First Advisor

Jenn Anderson


body-size, communication, heath, laypeople, self-esteem, stigma


Personal experience with weight-based stigma is negatively associated with selfesteem (Myers & Rosen, 1999). This study examined how self-esteem is affected by exposure to weight-based stigma communication that is directed at another person. Using Smith’s (2007a) stigma communication framework, I created a 2 (Stigma Level: high, low) x 2 (Gender of stigmatized person: male, female) x 2 (Body Size of stigmatized person: large, small) posttest-only experiment. Participants’ self-esteem was not impacted after viewing stigmatizing messages directed at another person. This suggests that selfesteem is more stable than some researchers indicate (Wagner, Lüdtke, and Trautwein, 2016). My results suggest that stigma communication message features, marking and personal responsibility, are more obvious in high stigma level conditions. Furthermore, results indicate that aspects of stigma are recognized in larger bodies more often than small bodies. These results suggest that perceptions about stigma communication vary by the stigma level and the stigma target’s attributes, namely body size. Implications are discussed.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

College students -- Attitudes.
Physical-appearance-based bias.
Body size.
Stigma (Social psychology)


Includes bibliographical references (pages 64-73)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University

Included in

Communication Commons



Rights Statement

In Copyright