Stigma and social power: Expecting to interact with an obese person activates power in the self-concept

Olivier Klein, Mark Snyder, Ryan Gonzalez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


People's sense of power is often a more crucial determinant of their behavior than their actual level of power. In this paper, we suggest that individuals may perceive themselves as more powerful when anticipating interaction with a member of a stigmatized out-group than with a member of a nonstigmatized group. Normal weight participants (N=77) expected to have an interaction with a target randomly identified as obese or thin. Participants were quicker to endorse words describing themselves in terms of traits associated with power when the target was obese than thin. They were also likely to expect greater interpersonal power, to endorse more negative attitudes towards obese people and to form more negative impressions, if the target was obese rather than thin. These findings suggest that a perception of empowerment is spontaneously activated prior to interaction with an obese person.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)378-395
Number of pages18
JournalSelf and Identity
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Received 21 November 2007; accepted 31 July 2008; first published online 22 December 2008. This research has been supported by two grants from the Communauté Franc¸ aise (ARC 06/11–342 and FNRS-FC 53760) to the first author. The authors would like to express their tremendous gratitude to Mike Haugen, Jenny Lonsdorf and Nick Stauner for their skilled assistance as experimenters. They would also like to thank Susan Andersen and three reviewers for their constructive comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. Correspondence should be addressed to: Olivier Klein, Unité de Psychologie Sociale CP 122, Université Libre de Bruxelles, 50 av. F. Roosevelt, 1050 Bruxelles, Belgium. E-mail:


  • Behavioral confirmation
  • Obesity
  • Power
  • Prejudice
  • Stigma


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