Obese people face many difficulties in many parts of life: from being less likely to be offered a job to be prejudiced as lazy or weak will.
In the stores, sellers tend to look less in the eye or smile less often.
A blatant shopping experience has now shown that prejudices also extend in the form of the products they recommend to consumers: Customers of greater importance are advised to buy more round products.
When an actress with a body index (BMI) in the healthy area went to buy bells or perfumes, sellers offered her a variety of products.
Two undercover investigators followed the actress without knowledge of the sellers, to record how angled or rounded were the products that were offered to them.
Then the actress shot a body shot that was created by professionals to make her look overweight. Wear the same clothes as before but of larger size returned to the stores, followed by the researchers again.
In total there were 37 meetings with sellers.
In each of them received up to three recommendations on the purchase of watches or perfumes. After analyzing the results, the researchers discovered that when the actress used the prostheses, they recommended that she buy both watches and more rounded perfume bottles.
"We believe that these subtle prejudices that resulted in these results are based on something more than a superficial combination of forms," said Beth Vallen, researcher at Villanova University in the United States and author of the study.
In addition to the sale
Internet experiments conducted with people who did not act as sales representatives confirmed the presence of this kind of prejudice discovered by Vallen and his research team.
Participants in this second study showed photographs of potential customers and asked to recommend products for them, choosing between two images that were round or angled.
"We wanted to show that this is a prejudice that is reflected in thoughts and decision-making processes of all people, not just sellers," said Vallen.
And so it was: they found the same effect as trying to pair more round products with people with higher body mass index.
The results were also repeated with different types of products: from bells to mirrors, through lamps and candles. And it happened, regardless of whether the imaginary client was male or female.
Researchers believe bias goes beyond the need to combine people who have a certain type of body with a certain type of product. Instead, they believe that what is at stake are the stereotypes that are related to the product and with people.
For example, a concrete stereotype is that overweight people are friendlier. Rounded shapes are also seen as friendlier.
The researchers also tried to determine if this stereotype was the one that led to the product recommendation, and designed other experiments where the actors behaved in a friendly or unfriendly manner.
And in fact, they found that the actors recommended more rounded products when they log and when they had a more serious facial expression. This last effect occurred even if they used the body prosthesis or not.
"We found no evidence that obese people prefer rounded products or that people of normal weight prefer angled products," says Vallen.
As a result, this bias can mean that people stop systematically getting recommendations for products that they do not like or that they are never recommended things they want.
The trap warns that similar prejudices may exist in other areas beyond body weight.
"You can look at gender, racial discrimination, people with the child's face, I think there are many physical attributes that you can investigate to see if this type of trend exists in other contexts," he says.
And how can you get out of this problem? The trap suggests that practitioners go beyond the actors so that they can discover what people really like, rather than acting on prejudices based on irrelevant factors such as body size.
Of course, this discovery is among the most involuntary consequences of body weight bias.
Having a slightly rounder or more pointed lamp than you may have probably will not cause any problems to anyone. But it is a reflection of how prejudice about your body size permeates the experiences in your daily life.