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Excess Baggage: How Physicians' and Patients’ Race-Related Beliefs and Attitudes Affect Racially Discordant Clinical Interactions

Colloquium | March 7 | 12:10-1:15 p.m. | 5101 Tolman Hall


Louis A. Penner, Professor, Wayne State University

Institute of Personality and Social Research


There are pervasive and persistent disparities in the health of Nonhispanic White Americans and most racial ethnic/minorities; the greatest of these are between Black and White Americans. There are multiple, complex reasons for this but disparities in the quality of healthcare received by Black and by White patients is one well-documented cause. One important aspect of healthcare disparities occurs in clinical interactions. Relative to White patients, clinical interactions between Black patients and nonblack physicians are substantially less productive and have poorer outcomes. This talk will present research on the impact of implicit and explicit race-related beliefs and attitudes among physicians and patients on the process and outcomes of racially discordant clinical interactions. This research shows that the race-related attitudes nonblack physicians bring to their interactions with Black patients affect their own behavior and that Black patients rather easily perceive and then react to these subtle behaviors. Moreover, Black patients do more than simply react to their physicians; their own race-related attitudes and beliefs play a critical role in the dynamics of racially discordant clinical interactions. The implications of these findings for our understanding of both the sources of healthcare disparities and our understanding of the role of implicit processes in social interactions will be discussed.


ipsr@berkeley.edu, 510-642-5050