The desire to be thin can implant itself in girls as young as 3, a new study shows. Fifty-five girls between the ages of 3 and 5 were shown three figures, identical except that one was thin, one average, and one fat. When asked to associate positive and negative adjectives with each figure, the girls assigned an average of 3.1 negative and 1.2 positive words to the fat figures, but only 1.2 negative and 2.7 positive words to the thin ones.
The girls were also more likely to choose the thin figure when asked who they would want to play with or have as a best friend. And when it came time to play a board game, some of the girls were so reluctant to play as the fat character that they wouldn't even touch the figure when asked to switch—some even said things like, "I hate her, she has a fat stomach." The lead researcher tells LiveScience that a replication of the study in California had similar preliminary results.