Perceptions of clients: Influences of client weight and job status

Brittani Pascal, Sharon Kurpius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


In spite of the increasing prevalence of obesity, obese individuals still experience discrimination in the workplace and by mental health professionals. To remain objective and ethical when working with clients who are obese and employed in low-status jobs, mental health professionals must be aware of their potential weight biases and how this impacts their impressions and judgments about the client. The current study examined whether judgments made by graduate students in mental health programs were related to the client's weight and job status. Seventy-six graduate students were randomly assigned 1 of 4 vignettes describing an obese bookkeeper, a normal-weight bookkeeper, an obese executive, or a normal-weight executive. Two attitudes were assessed, perceptions of the client's personal characteristics and those of her work efficacy. Mental health trainees perceived the client as having more negative characteristics when the client was described as obese rather than as normal weight, and also when she was described as having a low-status job rather than a high-status job. Judgments about work efficacy were not directly related to the client's weight or job status. However, in those situations in which the study participants had negative perceptions of the client's personal characteristics, they also had more negative perceptions of the client's work efficacy. It is important for mental health graduate programs to educate and sensitize students to weight as being a multicultural issue and how weight biases can affect other perceptions and intrude on therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-355
Number of pages7
JournalProfessional Psychology: Research and Practice
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2012


  • Job status
  • Mental health professionals
  • Obesity
  • Perceptions
  • Weight

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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