Caption for figure:
1. Lean (L - narrow shoulders, thin torso and extremities, knee and elbow joints thicker than thy and arm diameter). 2. Muscular (M – Broad shoulders, curved extremities, chest and abdominal muscles shown, thy and arm diameters greater than knee and elbow joints). 3. Slightly fat and feminine (F – rounded shoulders, cylindrical extremities). Each of the three body forms was represented with (designated by +) and without (−) abdominal obesity as shown in rows. The sequence of these figures was randomized during the test and the figures were labeled serially by alphabets.
From the paper:
hysical characters were associated with the appropriate body forms as expected. The physical traits strong, rough and tough and physically aggressive were associated with the muscular non-obese [M−] figure. Lethargic was associated with F+. Disease prone was significantly associated with L− on the one hand and F+ on the other indicating that people negatively associate both the extremes with health. The trait swift was also strongly associated with L−. The traits that are not obviously physical were also strongly associated with certain body forms. Brave, conscious about looks, influential, dominating, status conscious, modern and confident were associated with M−; physical risk avoider, money minded, political, rich, stupid, selfish and greedy were associated most strongly with F+; friendly, intelligent, methodical, business risk avoider, successful, loving, kind, and honest were associated with F−; and L− was the commonest choice for swift, physical risk avoider, talkative and the trait depressed was associated with L+ [table 1].
Link to Table 1.
PLoS ONE doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003187
Obesity as a Perceived Social Signal
Manasee Mankar et al.
Fat accumulation has been classically considered as a means of energy storage. Obese people are theorized as metabolically ‘thrifty’, saving energy during times of food abundance. However, recent research has highlighted many neuro-behavioral and social aspects of obesity, with a suggestion that obesity, abdominal obesity in particular, may have evolved as a social signal. We tested here whether body proportions, and abdominal obesity in particular, are perceived as signals revealing personality traits. Faceless drawings of three male body forms namely lean, muscular and feminine, each with and without abdominal obesity were shown in a randomized order to a group of 222 respondents. A list of 30 different adjectives or short descriptions of personality traits was given to each respondent and they were asked to allocate the most appropriate figure to each of them independently. The traits included those directly related to physique, those related to nature, attitude and moral character and also those related to social status. For 29 out of the 30 adjectives people consistently attributed specific body forms. Based on common choices, the 30 traits could be clustered into distinct ‘personalities’ which were strongly associated with particular body forms. A centrally obese figure was perceived as “lethargic, greedy, political, money-minded, selfish and rich”. The results show that body proportions are perceived to reflect personality traits and this raises the possibility that in addition to energy storage, social selection may have played some role in shaping the biology of obesity.