Black physicians are less likely to have implicit preferences for blacks or whites

Research Activities, January 2010, No. 353

Whether they are conscious or unconscious of it, health care providers—including physicians—have implicit attitudes about race. These attitudes may contribute to some of the health care disparities experienced by minority patients, suggests a new study. It examined implicit (nonconscious) attitudes about race in physicians. Doctors demonstrated an implicit preference for whites relative to blacks. However, black physicians did not appear to show an implicit preference for either blacks or whites. In addition, when it came to gender, women showed less implicit bias than men.

Researchers collected data from a large sample of 2,535 physicians who accessed Project Implicit, a demonstration Web site (implicit.harvard.edu). Those who visited the site took the Race Attitude Implicit Association Test, which asks users to quickly categorize facial images and value-laden words into pairs. The majority of physician test takers were white and less than half of the black physicians taking the test were male.

The implicit and explicit attitudes about race among the physicians reflected those of larger public samples. Overall, the majority of physicians held implicit preferences for whites over blacks. However, black physicians, on average, showed no implicit racial bias. This also parallels findings in large groups of blacks who took the test. Male physicians consistently showed stronger preferences for whites on both implicit and explicit measures. According to the researchers, the findings support efforts to increase minority representation in the medical professions. The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS15676).

See "Physicians' implicit and explicit attitudes about race by MD race, ethnicity, and gender," by Janice A. Sabin, Ph.D., M.S.W., Brian A. Nosek, Ph.D., Anthony G. Greenwald, Ph.D., and Frederick P. Rivara, M.D., M.P.H., in the August 2009 Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved 20, pp. 896-913.

Current as of January 2010
Internet Citation: Black physicians are less likely to have implicit preferences for blacks or whites: Research Activities, January 2010, No. 353. January 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/jan10/0110RA11.html