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Obesity as a perceived social signal.

Mankar M, Joshi RS, Belsare PV, Jog MM, Watve MG - PLoS ONE (2008)

Bottom Line: For 29 out of the 30 adjectives people consistently attributed specific body forms.Based on common choices, the 30 traits could be clustered into distinct 'personalities' which were strongly associated with particular body forms.A centrally obese figure was perceived as "lethargic, greedy, political, money-minded, selfish and rich".

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Microbiology, Abasaheb Garware College, Pune, India.

ABSTRACT
Fat accumulation has been classically considered as a means of energy storage. Obese people are theorized as metabolically 'thrifty', saving energy during times of food abundance. However, recent research has highlighted many neuro-behavioral and social aspects of obesity, with a suggestion that obesity, abdominal obesity in particular, may have evolved as a social signal. We tested here whether body proportions, and abdominal obesity in particular, are perceived as signals revealing personality traits. Faceless drawings of three male body forms namely lean, muscular and feminine, each with and without abdominal obesity were shown in a randomized order to a group of 222 respondents. A list of 30 different adjectives or short descriptions of personality traits was given to each respondent and they were asked to allocate the most appropriate figure to each of them independently. The traits included those directly related to physique, those related to nature, attitude and moral character and also those related to social status. For 29 out of the 30 adjectives people consistently attributed specific body forms. Based on common choices, the 30 traits could be clustered into distinct 'personalities' which were strongly associated with particular body forms. A centrally obese figure was perceived as "lethargic, greedy, political, money-minded, selfish and rich". The results show that body proportions are perceived to reflect personality traits and this raises the possibility that in addition to energy storage, social selection may have played some role in shaping the biology of obesity.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

The six body forms used in the study: Three types of body forms were as shown in columns.1. Lean (L - narrow shoulders, thin torso and extremities, knee and elbow joints thicker than thy and arm diameter). 2. Muscular (M – Broad shoulders, curved extremities, chest and abdominal muscles shown, thy and arm diameters greater than knee and elbow joints). 3. Slightly fat and feminine (F – rounded shoulders, cylindrical extremities). Each of the three body forms was represented with (designated by +) and without (−) abdominal obesity as shown in rows. The sequence of these figures was randomized during the test and the figures were labeled serially by alphabets.
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pone-0003187-g001: The six body forms used in the study: Three types of body forms were as shown in columns.1. Lean (L - narrow shoulders, thin torso and extremities, knee and elbow joints thicker than thy and arm diameter). 2. Muscular (M – Broad shoulders, curved extremities, chest and abdominal muscles shown, thy and arm diameters greater than knee and elbow joints). 3. Slightly fat and feminine (F – rounded shoulders, cylindrical extremities). Each of the three body forms was represented with (designated by +) and without (−) abdominal obesity as shown in rows. The sequence of these figures was randomized during the test and the figures were labeled serially by alphabets.

Mentions: Faceless drawings of three male body forms namely lean, muscular and slightly fat and feminine, each with and without abdominal obesity (designated as L−, L+, M−, M+, F− and F+ respectively) [fig 1] were shown in a randomized order to a group of 222 respondents comprising 140 females and 82 males. All respondents were science students of an age group between 18 and 22 who voluntarily participated in the study with an informed consent. A list of 30 different adjectives or short descriptions of personality traits was given to each respondent and they were asked to allocate the most appropriate figure to each of them independently. The respondents were instructed to choose only one figure for each trait and not to leave any trait without a choice. Further they were asked to make a random choice if they did not find any ‘reason’ to assign any of the figures to a given trait and to note whether a given choice was with conscious reasoning (they were not expected to write reasons) or a random or ‘just felt like’ choice. The traits included those directly related to physique [strong, physically aggressive, lethargic, disease prone, swift, rough and tough] those related to nature [brave, friendly, talkative, intelligent, stupid, methodical], attitude [confident, conscious about looks, money minded, physical risk avoider, business risk avoider, depressed], moral character [greedy, selfish, political, kind, loving, honest] and also those related to social status [status conscious, rich, influential, dominating, successful, modern]. The study was restricted to male body forms for the fear that the social constraints and taboos on displaying naked female body forms in educational institutes may cause reluctance or bias the responses.


Obesity as a perceived social signal.

Mankar M, Joshi RS, Belsare PV, Jog MM, Watve MG - PLoS ONE (2008)

The six body forms used in the study: Three types of body forms were as shown in columns.1. Lean (L - narrow shoulders, thin torso and extremities, knee and elbow joints thicker than thy and arm diameter). 2. Muscular (M – Broad shoulders, curved extremities, chest and abdominal muscles shown, thy and arm diameters greater than knee and elbow joints). 3. Slightly fat and feminine (F – rounded shoulders, cylindrical extremities). Each of the three body forms was represented with (designated by +) and without (−) abdominal obesity as shown in rows. The sequence of these figures was randomized during the test and the figures were labeled serially by alphabets.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC2527137&req=5

pone-0003187-g001: The six body forms used in the study: Three types of body forms were as shown in columns.1. Lean (L - narrow shoulders, thin torso and extremities, knee and elbow joints thicker than thy and arm diameter). 2. Muscular (M – Broad shoulders, curved extremities, chest and abdominal muscles shown, thy and arm diameters greater than knee and elbow joints). 3. Slightly fat and feminine (F – rounded shoulders, cylindrical extremities). Each of the three body forms was represented with (designated by +) and without (−) abdominal obesity as shown in rows. The sequence of these figures was randomized during the test and the figures were labeled serially by alphabets.
Mentions: Faceless drawings of three male body forms namely lean, muscular and slightly fat and feminine, each with and without abdominal obesity (designated as L−, L+, M−, M+, F− and F+ respectively) [fig 1] were shown in a randomized order to a group of 222 respondents comprising 140 females and 82 males. All respondents were science students of an age group between 18 and 22 who voluntarily participated in the study with an informed consent. A list of 30 different adjectives or short descriptions of personality traits was given to each respondent and they were asked to allocate the most appropriate figure to each of them independently. The respondents were instructed to choose only one figure for each trait and not to leave any trait without a choice. Further they were asked to make a random choice if they did not find any ‘reason’ to assign any of the figures to a given trait and to note whether a given choice was with conscious reasoning (they were not expected to write reasons) or a random or ‘just felt like’ choice. The traits included those directly related to physique [strong, physically aggressive, lethargic, disease prone, swift, rough and tough] those related to nature [brave, friendly, talkative, intelligent, stupid, methodical], attitude [confident, conscious about looks, money minded, physical risk avoider, business risk avoider, depressed], moral character [greedy, selfish, political, kind, loving, honest] and also those related to social status [status conscious, rich, influential, dominating, successful, modern]. The study was restricted to male body forms for the fear that the social constraints and taboos on displaying naked female body forms in educational institutes may cause reluctance or bias the responses.

Bottom Line: For 29 out of the 30 adjectives people consistently attributed specific body forms.Based on common choices, the 30 traits could be clustered into distinct 'personalities' which were strongly associated with particular body forms.A centrally obese figure was perceived as "lethargic, greedy, political, money-minded, selfish and rich".

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Microbiology, Abasaheb Garware College, Pune, India.

ABSTRACT
Fat accumulation has been classically considered as a means of energy storage. Obese people are theorized as metabolically 'thrifty', saving energy during times of food abundance. However, recent research has highlighted many neuro-behavioral and social aspects of obesity, with a suggestion that obesity, abdominal obesity in particular, may have evolved as a social signal. We tested here whether body proportions, and abdominal obesity in particular, are perceived as signals revealing personality traits. Faceless drawings of three male body forms namely lean, muscular and feminine, each with and without abdominal obesity were shown in a randomized order to a group of 222 respondents. A list of 30 different adjectives or short descriptions of personality traits was given to each respondent and they were asked to allocate the most appropriate figure to each of them independently. The traits included those directly related to physique, those related to nature, attitude and moral character and also those related to social status. For 29 out of the 30 adjectives people consistently attributed specific body forms. Based on common choices, the 30 traits could be clustered into distinct 'personalities' which were strongly associated with particular body forms. A centrally obese figure was perceived as "lethargic, greedy, political, money-minded, selfish and rich". The results show that body proportions are perceived to reflect personality traits and this raises the possibility that in addition to energy storage, social selection may have played some role in shaping the biology of obesity.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus