The high prevalence of childhood obesity has drawn increasing attention to the neurocognitive impairments associated with excess weight, and evidence has accumulated of a progressive decline in working memory at increasing levels of children's Body Mass Index (BMI). However, obesity is also a highly stigmatizing condition, and pervasive societal stereotypes depict individuals with obesity as less intelligent than those with average weight. For this reason, we investigated whether stereotype threat (i.e., the fear of confirming a negative stereotype attached to one's social groups) contributes to working memory impairments in children with excess weight. By applying a consolidated paradigm in stereotype threat research, primary school-age children (N = 176) performed a computerized working memory task that was alternatively labeled as diagnostic (i.e., stereotype-threatening) or nondiagnostic (i.e., non-stereotype-threatening) of their intellectual ability. Results confirmed that working memory decreased at increasing levels of BMI in the stereotype-threatening condition, whereas the relation between body weight and working memory was null when task diagnosticity was removed. This effect was not further moderated by children's direct experiences of weight-based stigmatization or by their personal endorsement of the obesity stereotype about intelligence. These findings suggest that vulnerability to weight-related stereotype threat emerges early in life and may contribute to working memory deficits in children with obesity.

Weight status or weight stigma? Obesity stereotypes—Not excess weight—Reduce working memory in school-aged children

Guardabassi V.
;
Tomasetto C.
2020

Abstract

The high prevalence of childhood obesity has drawn increasing attention to the neurocognitive impairments associated with excess weight, and evidence has accumulated of a progressive decline in working memory at increasing levels of children's Body Mass Index (BMI). However, obesity is also a highly stigmatizing condition, and pervasive societal stereotypes depict individuals with obesity as less intelligent than those with average weight. For this reason, we investigated whether stereotype threat (i.e., the fear of confirming a negative stereotype attached to one's social groups) contributes to working memory impairments in children with excess weight. By applying a consolidated paradigm in stereotype threat research, primary school-age children (N = 176) performed a computerized working memory task that was alternatively labeled as diagnostic (i.e., stereotype-threatening) or nondiagnostic (i.e., non-stereotype-threatening) of their intellectual ability. Results confirmed that working memory decreased at increasing levels of BMI in the stereotype-threatening condition, whereas the relation between body weight and working memory was null when task diagnosticity was removed. This effect was not further moderated by children's direct experiences of weight-based stigmatization or by their personal endorsement of the obesity stereotype about intelligence. These findings suggest that vulnerability to weight-related stereotype threat emerges early in life and may contribute to working memory deficits in children with obesity.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11585/704240
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