Americans perceive overweight Asian people as 'less foreign' than skinny Asians

In Unexpected Gains: Being Overweight Buffers Asian Americans From Prejudice Against Foreigners (Sci-Hub mirror), a paper published in Psychological Science, a group of social scientists from UK and US universities as well as Microsoft evaluated the role that weight plays in the perceptions of people of Asian descent in the USA.

They doctored photos of Asian-origin people to change their weight to a spectrum ranging from thin to obese, then asked American subjects to view the photos and make a guess about the likelihood that the people in the pictures had been born in the USA and spoke fluent English. The heavier the people in the photo were, the more they were perceived as "American" and the less they were perceived as "foreign."

As a group, people of Asian origin have a lower likelihood of being overweight or obese, compared to people of other ethnic backgrounds.

“People in the US often encounter prejudice if they are overweight—they may be mistreated by a customer service person, for example, or a health care provider. Weight can be an obstacle to getting good treatment,” Cheryan says.

“We found that there was a paradoxical social benefit for Asian Americans, where extra weight allows them to be seen as more American and less likely to face prejudice directed at those assumed to be foreign,” she says.

Unexpected Gains: Being Overweight Buffers Asian Americans From Prejudice Against Foreigners [Caitlin Handron, Teri A. Kirby, Jennifer Wang, Helena E. Matskewich and Sapna Cheryan/Psychological Science] [Sci-Hub mirror]

Your weight can affect how “American” you look [Andy Henion/Quartz]

(Image: Jnn13, CC-BY-SA)

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