Measure Your Bias

Let’s talk about weight bias and discrimination. I’ll start. I’ve been fat, I’ve been thin, I’ve cared for patients and counseled friends with obesity, I’ve provided educational sessions to healthcare providers and public health students on managing weight bias. And yet, there are those times when I fail to meet my own standards and expectations. Times when, despite my deepest commitment to fighting weight bias and discrimination, I too am a product of what seems to be the societal stamp of approval to “get fat people.” I am not proud of this and it is hard for me to even come clean on it. What will you think? Will my work as an advocate be compromised?

What risks are there in digging deep into ourselves to discuss this issue? Can we take a stab at it? What are your feelings on this? How about learning more about your weight bias?

Measure Your Bias
There is a very common test used to measure our level of weight bias, titled the Weight Implicit Associations Test (IAT). IAT was developed by Project Implicit®, which is a non-profit organization supporting a collaborative network of researchers interested in basic and applied research concerning thoughts and feelings that occur outside of conscious awareness or control. IAT is used for many public issues such as race, religion, gender, etc. I would like for all of you to take the Weight Implicit Associations Test and find out where your level of bias rests in regards to weight.

Take the Test
Here are the directions to begin (the test will take about 10 minutes):

To begin, please visit https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/index.jsp.

      • Hit “Go” next to the “United States” field in the “Project Implicit Social Attitudes” section (you don’t have to register)
      • Click “I wish to proceed” at the bottom of the next page
      • Click “Weight AIT” and you’re ready to go

Results
Let’s take a look at this test. How did it make you feel? What were your reactions?

Now what? In my experience, it is the rare person who has no bias. For this first blog, let’s get some basics out there. And the next time, we’ll look at some of the ways it manifests itself – in ourselves and in others.

I would hazard a guess that, at some point in all of our lives, we have had not so nice thoughts that could be construed as discriminatory. The question is “do these thoughts, in and of themselves, really matter?” I say “No.” Uh-oh, have I crossed a line into the “Is she crazy, of course they matter?” I challenge you to tell my why they matter.

So here it is – if we think success for eradicating bias and discrimination is measured by people never having any thoughts about these things, we are doomed to fail. What we should care about is what we do about these thoughts. How we act is what the world experiences and that, by example, is what changes others behaviors. We are imperfect beings and we do the best we can do and if even once, we act against bias and discrimination, we have left a footprint, no matter how small and regardless of what our thoughts may be.

So – what do you think? Let the discussion begin!

Next Time…

Stay tuned for my next posting – “What’s happening out there – examples not to live by – yours, mine and ours.”

About the Author:
Melinda J. Watman, BSN, MSN, CNM, MBA, spent years in clinical practice and recently founded “THE F WORD FAT tiny word, BIG impact,” a company that provides educational seminars to organizations on understanding, managing and eliminating weight bias and discrimination.



5 Comments for this Post
  • Joy Jacobs
    June 4, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    I took the test and scored as no preference between the two groups. It was interesting. I was bothered by the good word/body type associations when they were negative to either group.


    • oacjames
      June 4, 2013 at 4:08 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Joy. I am curious to see what Melinda’s thoughts are regarding your comment.

      Thanks,
      James Zervios, OAC Director of Communications


      • Melinda Watman
        June 6, 2013 at 10:49 am

        Joy – thank you for your comment.

        I agree the word “good” automatically presents the age-old issue of judgment when considering the topic of weight as it relates to “fat”. On the other hand, from the test perspective, there is a need to present a set of words that provide a way to measure preference.

        A question to consider – If we accept the end goal of the test is to determine bias, is the language acceptable? And if not, how does a test measuring opposite ends of a spectrum do so without the use of positive and negative words associated with various images and ideas?

        Joy – would you be willing to share your thoughts on what you found negative to either group yet had a “good” classification.


    • Sarah
      June 6, 2013 at 12:38 pm

      Wow! Interesting. Not surprised by my results. Moderate preference towards Fat People. At first I was frustrated that I was not allowed to mark “Failure” as GOOD, my own perspective that failure provides a learning opportunity for improvement. I then realized the overall nature of the assessment. With that also, my perspective was the the good/bad and fat/thin labels were equalized in the end. As all four combinations Bad/Fat, Good/Thin, Bad/Thin, Good/Fat we used in the sorting.


  • Melinda Watman
    June 6, 2013 at 10:51 am

    Joy brings up a very good point about the Harvard Implicit Weight Bias test. What do you think about her comment?

    Joy’s comment:

    “I was bothered by the good word/body type associations when they were negative to either group”



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