Racial bias in pain assessment and treatment recommendations, and false beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whites Apr 04, 2016 By Sophie TrawalterKelly M. HoffmanJordan R. AxtM. Norman Oliver Racial bias in pain assessment and treatment recommendations, and false beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whites Black Americans are systematically undertreated for pain relative to white Americans. We examine whether this racial bias is related to false beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whites (e.g., “black people’s skin is thicker than white people’s skin”). Study 1 documented these beliefs among white laypersons and revealed that participants who more strongly endorsed false beliefs about biological differences reported lower pain ratings for a black (vs. white) target. Study 2 extended these findings to the medical context and found that half of a sample of white medical students and residents endorsed these beliefs. Moreover, participants who endorsed these beliefs rated the black (vs. white) patient’s pain as lower and made less accurate treatment recommendations. Participants who did not endorse these beliefs rated the black (vs. white) patient’s pain as higher, but showed no bias in treatment recommendations. These findings suggest that individuals with at least some medical training hold and may use false beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whites to inform medical judgments, which may contribute to racial disparities in pain assessment and treatment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Areas of focus Social Psychology Racial Justice and Equity Research and Commentary Sophie Trawalter Sophie Trawalter is an associate professor of public policy and psychology at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. Trawalter studies phenomena related to social diversity, specifically how people navigate intergroup contact and intergroup contexts, with a particular focus on how people develop competencies and learn to thrive in diverse spaces. Read full bio Kelly M. Hoffman Jordan R. Axt M. Norman Oliver Related Content Sophie Trawalter Gender Differences in Law School Classroom Participation: The Key Role of Social Context Research Even though women make up roughly half of the students enrolled in law school today, they do not take up roughly half of the speaking time in law school classes. We found that women, more than men, report backlash for speaking in class, and this difference affects their willingness to participate in the law school classroom. Racial Bias in Perceptions of Disease and Policy Research Narratives about Africa as dark, depraved, and diseased justified the exploitation of African land and people. Today, these narratives may still have a hold on people’s fears about disease. This group of scholars conducts tests and studies that, when taken together, make clear that reactions to pandemics are biased, and in a way consistent with historical narratives about race and Africa. Batten Faculty Recognized for Excellence in Teaching, Service, Research and Engagement News This academic year, Batten School professors won a slew of internal and external recognitions for excellence in teaching, service, research and engagement. Why Professors Should Call on Law Students — With a Plan News A new paper by Batten School professor Sophie Trawalter finds gender dynamics in classes are not fixed.