Moralization of weight leads to defensiveness among higher weight people by prompting social image concerns

Research team

  • Nicolay Gausel

    University of Adanger
  • Stuart W. Flint

  • Susanne Täuber

    University of Groningen

The Challenge

For many years, scholars and politicians alike have offered opinions and debated the morality of public health as a means to increasing motivation amongst those targeted to engage in ‘healthier behaviour’. However, recent research also offers evidence that moralized appeals elicit defensiveness rather than a motivation to improve among targets. 

The Approach


Building on these recent insights, the present research investigates the association between feeling morally judged by others and subsequent motivation among higher weight people. Specifically, we will integrate so far unconnected areas of prior research on concerns about social and self-image, moral motivation and defensiveness.

This research aims to examine:

  1. Whether the public perceived people with unhealthy lifestyles, in particular people with higher weight, as immoral vs. incompetent
  2. Association between a moral construal of higher weight and weight bias internalization across the weight spectrum