Assess implicit weight bias in children 9 to 11 years old.
Implicit weight bias was measured in children ages 9 to 11 (N = 114) by using the Affect Misattribution Procedure. Participants were shown a test image of a child for 350 milliseconds followed by a meaningless fractal (200 milliseconds), and then they were asked to rate the fractal image as “good” or “bad.” We used 9 image pairs matched on age, race, sex, and activity but differing by weight of the child. Implicit bias was the difference between positive ratings for fractals preceded by an image of a healthy-weight child and positive ratings for fractals preceded by an image of an overweight child.
On average, 64% of abstract fractals shown after pictures of healthy-weight children were rated as “good,” compared with 59% of those shown after pictures of overweight children, reflecting an overall implicit bias rate of 5.4% against overweight children (P < .001). Healthy-weight participants showed greater implicit bias than over- and underweight participants (7.9%, 1.4%, and 0.3% respectively; P = .049).
Implicit bias toward overweight individuals is evident in children aged 9 to 11 years with a magnitude of implicit bias (5.4%) similar to that in studies of implicit racial bias among adults.