Introduction Anti-fat prejudice has been documented in several areas of society, it’s a concern with considerable psychosocial costs. When examining explicit attitudes toward stigmatized groups it’s necessary to report personal beliefs or assign attributes. One measure to minimize response bias is the Implicit Association Test (IAT, Greenwald et al, 1998) that measures the strength of automatic associations of a target construct with particular attributes. By using this instrument it has been found that also educators, physicians and exercise specialists, who all exert a crucial role in obesity prevention and treatment, report strong negative prejudice toward obese individuals. The aims of this research were to examine the implicit and explicit attitudes toward obesity among a sample of Italian university students and to investigate the relationships of two psychosocial constructs: the social dominance orientation (SDO) and the physical self-concept. Method Undergraduates of exercise sciences, medicine and primary education (N = 451) completed a series of questionnaires. The IAT was used associating “obese people” and “thin people” with two ranges of stereotypes: lazy-motivated and smart-stupid. Explicit anti-fat attitude was assessed using Crandall’s 13-item questionnaire (1994). SDO (Di Stefano & Roccato, 2005) and Physical Self-Description Questionnaire-short (Peart et al, 2006) were used to explore their relations with anti-fat bias. Results Undergraduates of exercise sciences reported significant anti-fat implicit and explicit attitudes in comparison with students of others careers (p < .05). Level of bias was associated with SDO (p < .05) and with more positive physical self-description (p < .05). Discussion Students majoring in exercise sciences displayed stronger anti-fat bias. This fact could have negative implications during their future professional career if they have to take care of obese people. Understanding and addressing situation of weight bias may be the first step to reduce negative and potentially dangerous attitudes promoting specific training.
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