Aversive Racism and Medical Interactions with Black Patients: A Field Study

J Exp Soc Psychol. 2010 Mar 1;46(2):436-440. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2009.11.004.


Medical interactions between Black patients and nonBlack physicians are usually less positive and productive than same-race interactions. We investigated the role that physician explicit and implicit biases play in shaping physician and patient reactions in racially discordant medical interactions. We hypothesized that whereas physicians' explicit bias would predict their own reactions, physicians' implicit bias, in combination with physician explicit (self-reported) bias, would predict patients' reactions. Specifically, we predicted that patients would react most negatively when their physician fit the profile of an aversive racist (i.e., low explicit-high implicit bias). The hypothesis about the effects of explicit bias on physicians' reactions was partially supported. The aversive racism hypothesis received support. Black patients had less positive reactions to medical interactions with physicians relatively low in explicit but relatively high in implicit bias than to interactions with physicians who were either (a) low in both explicit and implicit bias, or (b) high in both explicit and implicit bias.