Combining explicit and implicit measures of racial discrimination in health research

Am J Public Health. 2010 Aug;100(8):1485-92. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2009.159517. Epub 2009 Nov 17.


Objectives: To improve measurement of discrimination for health research, we sought to address the concern that explicit self-reports of racial discrimination may not capture unconscious cognition.

Methods: We used 2 assessment tools in our Web-based study: a new application of the Implicit Association Test, a computer-based reaction-time test that measures the strength of association between an individual's self or group and being a victim or perpetrator of racial discrimination, and a validated explicit self-report measure of racial discrimination.

Results: Among the 442 US-born non-Hispanic Black participants, the explicit and implicit measures, as hypothesized, were weakly correlated and tended to be independently associated with risk of hypertension among persons with less than a college degree. Adjustments for both measures eliminated the significantly greater risk for Blacks than for Whites (odds ratio = 1.4), reducing it to 1.1 (95% confidence interval = 0.7, 1.7).

Conclusions: Our results suggest that the scientific rigor of research on racism and health will be improved by investigating how both unconscious and conscious mental awareness of having experienced discrimination matter for somatic and mental health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology*
  • Black or African American / education
  • Black or African American / ethnology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Data Collection / methods*
  • Data Collection / standards
  • Educational Status
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / ethnology*
  • Internet
  • Linear Models
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prejudice*
  • Public Health
  • Research Design
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Unconscious, Psychology
  • United States / epidemiology
  • White People / ethnology
  • Word Association Tests* / standards