Being overweight changes how you view the world — literally. That’s the upshot of new research that suggests overweight people tend to see things as farther away than those of average weight.
The findings, published in the journal Acta Psychologica, are based on a series of experiments researchers conducted to learn more about perceptual differences that occur as people gain weight and what they learned by doing so, Medical Xpress
In the first experiment, Walmart customers were asked to estimate the distance of a cone placed on a sidewalk outside 25 meters away from them. The researchers found that overweight people tended to think the cone was farther away than it really was, overestimating by up to five meters.
But the customers who were slimmer than average tended to underestimate the distance to the cone, thinking it was up to 15 meters closer than it actually was.
The research suggests that as people gain weight, they begin to perceive the world differently. For example, they noted that a person hiking with a heavy backpack tends to start seeing hills as farther away, higher, and more difficult to reach than a person without a pack.
In another experiment, the researchers asked volunteers to play putt-putt golf under an illusion that made the hole look smaller, which caused them to play worse, even though the hole size never actually changed. In a third experiment, volunteers were asked to play tennis with different sized rackets and reported that the ball seemed to move slower as the rackets got bigger.
Such experiments suggest that weight-loss programs need to take such perceptions into consideration if they are to work — such as having participants wear goggles that make things look closer, or avoiding walking where there are hills, the researchers said.
“The results also have implications for perception as a contributing factor for lifestyle choices: people who weigh more than others may choose to perform less physically demanding actions not as a result of how they perceive their bodies, but as a result of how they perceive the environment,” the researchers concluded.
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