Weighing the Evidence: Social Desirability, Eating Disorder Symptomatology, and Accuracy of Self-reported Body Weight Among Men and Women
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- Ambwani, S. & Chmielewski, J.F. Sex Roles (2013) 68: 474. doi:10.1007/s11199-012-0244-1
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Although self-reported measurement of body weight is commonly accepted practice, this method may yield inaccurate estimates varying by respondent gender, body mass index, and eating disorder symptomatology. Given the gendered nature of idealized body weight in the U.S., we examined whether or not these variables and positive impression management are associated with inaccurate weight reporting among undergraduates. College women (n = 107) and men (n = 48) from a small liberal arts school in the Northeastern U.S. self-reported height and weight, completed the Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire, Personality Assessment Inventory-Positive Impression Management scale, and three scales from the Eating Disorder Inventory-3, and were then weighed. Paired t-tests compared self-reported and measured body weight for men and women separately, and respondents were then categorized as under- or over-reporters by gender. Independent samples t-tests were conducted separately for men and women comparing weight under- and over-reporters on BMI, levels of eating disorder symptomatology, and social desirability. Results indicate discrepancies between self-reported and measured body weight were significant. Among those who over-reported weight, men exhibited greater over-reporting than did women. Weight under-reporting was associated with higher BMI, and for women, lower eating disorder symptomatology and higher social desirability scores. There may be inaccuracies in self-reported weight based on positive impression management, BMI, and eating disorder symptomatology, but these appear to differ by gender. Future research should explore the roles of personality, social desirability, and competing pressures for muscularity versus thinness in weight reporting accuracy among men and women.