Master's Theses


Communication Studies

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Today’s society has become increasingly concerned with what is politically correct by trying to dispel any biases that may offend someone. One of the biases the American culture has made acceptable is bias against the overweight. Overweight individuals are being discriminated against on a regular basis, and overweight women are those primarily suffering consequences of this bias. They are seen as being out of control, lazy and unprofessional. Overweight women are being discriminated against on a regular basis in the workplace because of such bias. Research shows people make judgments according to first impressions, which are formed within the first few seconds of meeting someone. Appearance is usually a major factor in first impressions because one does not have much else to go on within a few seconds other than appearance. One’s body image is, of course, part of their immediate appearance. An individual’s body image, or appearance of being overweight, has been shown to lead to discrimination within the workplace due to others’ causal attributions. The purpose of this study was to examine attribution theory and its relationship to body image. The study began by collecting information from previous literature and later formulating a questionnaire asking likely future employers (N=93) to make a hiring decision based on limited information, such as photographs and resumes. This sample was chosen in order to find if biases against the overweight are prevalent in tomorrow’s employers. RQ1: How do management students’ perceptions of body image affect their employment decisions? The researcher developed a questionnaire and mock resumes and photographs of four potential candidates for hire. The study utilized data collected form business management juniors and seniors at a mid-sized, Midwestern university. Students were asked to evaluated the candidates and choose which applicant they would hire and why according to a 7-item questionnaire; 105 questionnaires were distributed. Analysis of such information was consistent with previous research. The present study contributed quantitative and qualitative data into body image studies in relationship with the fundamental attribution error. This study provided an important bridge between first impressions and attribution theory, as well as in gender issues and calls for future research. Implications for the results of this study are later discussed.


Carol Haggard

Date of Award

Fall 2003

Document Type

Thesis - campus only access


© 2003 Brandy L. Feltis


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