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Immoral Bodies: The Implicit Association Between Moral Discourse and the Body

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Three studies examined the ways in which cognitive appraisals of health and the condition of the body use moral discourse derived from Christianity. Study 1 indicated that people explicitly rated health-related behaviors such as exercising and dieting as more pious and less sinful than their negative counterparts. Studies 2 and 3 elaborated upon these results using the Implicit Association Test, a cognitive procedure for examining automatic (or implicit) associations that may exist outside of conscious awareness. Results indicated that people have a strong implicit association between morality and the condition of the body. Furthermore, this implicit association remained significant once potential overlap with standard evaluative terminology was statistically controlled. These results suggest that people implicitly evaluate the condition of the body using moral discourse, and that the use of such rhetoric reflects the cognitive appraisal of obesity as immoral, rather than as simply negative in a standard sense.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5906.2007.00365.x

Affiliations: 1: William J. Hoverd is in the School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand. 2: Chris G. Sibley is in the Department of Psychology at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Publication date: September 1, 2007

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