November 14, 2012

Racial Bias in Perceptions of Others’ Pain

7(11): e48546
Kelly M. Hoffman, Adam Waytz

The present work provides evidence that people assume a priori that Blacks feel less pain than do Whites. It also demonstrates that this bias is rooted in perceptions of status and the privilege (or hardship) status confers, not race per se. Archival data from the National Football League injury reports reveal that, relative to injured White players, injured Black players are deemed more likely to play in a subsequent game, possibly because people assume they feel less pain. Experiments 1–4 show that White and Black Americans–including registered nurses and nursing students–assume that Black people feel less pain than do White people. Finally, Experiments 5 and 6 provide evidence that this bias is rooted in perceptions of status, not race per se. Taken together, these data have important implications for understanding race-related biases and healthcare disparities.