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Body Objectification and “Fat Talk”: Effects on Emotion, Motivation, and Cognitive Performance

Abstract

To evaluate the effects of self-objectification on mood, motivation, and cognitive performance, 80 women either tried on a swimsuit (high objectification) or a sweater (low objectification). In addition, in order to investigate whether “fat talk” exacerbates the negative effects of self-objectification, half of each group overheard a confederate make self-disparaging body comments or neutral comments. Self-objectification, either as an individual difference disposition (trait) or as a situationally induced state, was associated with increased negative feelings, decreased intrinsic motivation, lower self-efficacy, and diminished cognitive functioning. The “fat talk” prime had mixed effects; potential reasons are discussed in detail. Exposure to fat talk was associated with an increase in negative emotion for women in sweaters, but a decrease in negative emotion for women in swimsuits. Fat talk was also associated with improved motivation and cognitive functioning for women low in trait self-objectification but diminished motivation and performance for women high in trait self-objectification.

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Correspondence to Kelly D. Brownell.

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Gapinski, K.D., Brownell, K.D. & LaFrance, M. Body Objectification and “Fat Talk”: Effects on Emotion, Motivation, and Cognitive Performance. Sex Roles 48, 377–388 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1023516209973

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1023516209973

  • self-objectification
  • fat talk
  • objectification theory
  • body image
  • cognitive functioning