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

Gordon B. Moskowitz, Jeffrey A Stone, Amanda Childs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

43 Scopus citations

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 primedwith an African American face, doctors reactedmore 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 behaviorswith 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)996-1001
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Public Health
Volume102
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2012

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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