Unbound MEDLINE

Implicit stereotyping and medical decisions: unconscious stereotype activation in practitioners' thoughts about African Americans.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES
We investigated whether stereotypes unconsciously influence the thinking and behavior of physicians, as they have been shown to do in other professional settings, such as among law enforcement personnel and teachers.
METHODS
We conducted 2 studies to examine whether stereotypes are implicitly activated in physicians. Study 1 assessed what diseases and treatments doctors associate with African Americans. Study 2 presented these (and control terms) to doctors as part of a computerized task. Subliminal images of African American and White men appeared prior to each word, and reaction times to words were recorded.
RESULTS
When primed with an African American face, doctors reacted more quickly for stereotypical diseases, indicating an implicit association of certain diseases with African Americans. These comprised not only diseases African Americans are genetically predisposed to, but also conditions and social behaviors with no biological association (e.g., obesity, drug abuse).
CONCLUSIONS
We found implicit stereotyping among physicians; faces they never consciously saw altered performance. This suggests that diagnoses and treatment of African American patients may be biased, even in the absence of the practitioner's intent or awareness.

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  • Authors

    Moskowitz GB, Stone J, Childs A

    Source

    American journal of public health 102:5 2012 May pg 996-1001

    MeSH

    African Americans
    Attitude of Health Personnel
    Communication
    Decision Making
    Health Personnel
    Healthcare Disparities
    Humans
    Physician-Patient Relations
    Stereotyping

    Pub Type(s)

    Journal Article
    Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
    Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

    Language

    eng

    PubMed ID

    22420815