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22-11-2018 | Original Article | Uitgave 4/2020

Psychological Research 4/2020

Thinner than yourself: self-serving bias in body size estimation

Psychological Research > Uitgave 4/2020
Mara Mazzurega, Jlenia Marisa, Massimiliano Zampini, Francesco Pavani
Belangrijke opmerkingen
Mara Mazzurega and Jlenia Marisa contributed equally to this work.


The self-serving bias is the tendency to consider oneself in unrealistically positive terms. This phenomenon has been documented for body attractiveness, but it remains unclear to what extent it can also emerge for own body size perception. In the present study, we examined this issue in healthy young adults (45 females and 40 males), using two body size estimation (BSE) measures and taking into account inter-individual differences in eating disorder risk. Participants observed pictures of avatars, built from whole body photos of themselves or an unknown other matched for gender. Avatars were parametrically distorted along the thinness–heaviness dimension, and individualised by adding the head of the self or the other. In the first BSE task, participants indicated in each trial whether the seen avatar was thinner or fatter than themselves (or the other). In the second BSE task, participants chose the best representative body size for self and other from a set of avatars. Greater underestimation for self than other body size emerged in both tasks, comparably for women and men. Thinner bodies were also judged as more attractive, in line with standard of beauty in modern western society. Notably, this self-serving bias in BSE was stronger in people with low eating disorder risk. In sum, positive attitudes towards the self can extend to body size estimation in young adults, making own body size closer to the ideal body. We propose that this bias could play an adaptive role in preserving a positive body image.

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