Does physical weight alter the mental representation of the body? Evidence from motor imagery in obesity

Federica Scarpina, Clara Paschino, Massimo Scacchi, Alessandro Mauro, Anna Sedda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
59 Downloads (Pure)


Obesity is a clinical condition that impacts severely the physical body. However, evidence related to the mental representation of the body in action is scarce. The few available studies only focus on avoiding obstacles, rather than participants imagining their own body. To advance knowledge in this field, we assessed the performance of 22 individuals with obesity compared with 30 individuals with a healthy weight in two tasks that implied different motor (more implicit vs. more explicit) imagery strategies. Two tasks were also administered to control for visual imagery skills, to rule out confounding factors. Moreover, we measured body uneasiness, through a standard questionnaire, as body image negativity could impact on other body representation components. Our findings do not show differences in the motor imagery tasks between individuals with obesity and individuals with healthy weight. On the other hand, some differences emerge in visual imagery skills. Crucially, individuals with obesity did report a higher level of body uneasiness. Despite a negative body image and visual imagery differences, obesity per se does not impact on the representation of the body in action. Importantly, this result is independent from the level of awareness required to access the mental representation of the body.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2349-2365
Number of pages17
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number12
Early online date8 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • body in action
  • body schema
  • mental imagery
  • motor imagery
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Physiology


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