Haas Institute Co-Releases Science of Equality Report: Addressing Implicit Bias, Racial Anxiety, and Stereotype Threat in Education and Health Care

Publications

Nov. 13, New York, NY: A new report released today addresses the great American racial conundrum: the vast majority of Americans believe racism is wrong, yet evidence showing that race often determines how people are treated is overwhelming.

In “The Science of Equality Volume 1: Addressing Implicit Bias, Racial Anxiety, and Stereotype Threat in Education and Health Care,the Perception Institute, a national consortium of social scientists and legal scholars, begins a series of landmark reports to understand this challenge and to provide empirically tested solutions to address it.

Download the report.

"We carry around all this baggage in the form of stereotypes and biases against people who aren't like us," said Alexis McGill Johnson, Executive Director of the Perception Institute. “Discrimination is real, but racial difference does not have to end in tragedy. There is hope: with awareness, with practice, with checks and balances, we can learn how to reduce bias and treat people equally.”

The report explains three phenomena key to understanding why people who hold egalitarian views still act differently towards others based on their race or ethnicity:

●      Implicit Bias -- the automatic associations and attitudes linked to race and ethnicity;

●      Racial Anxiety -- the fear that you will be judged because of your race and if you are white that you will be assumed to be racist; and

●      Stereotype Threat -- the worry that you will conform to negative stereotypes about your group.

The Science of Equality integrates and translates for the lay reader hundreds of studies on how prejudice works in the mind, detailing cutting-edge research on effective interventions that can greatly improve health care and education outcomes. 

Topline findings on education:

●      Studies show that, out of fear of appearing prejudiced, teachers may give students of color too little critical feedback. Teachers are in a bind: if they give only negative feedback, they could appear prejudiced; if they give only positive feedback, they could appear condescending. This report provides a way out: by making it explicit to students that teachers have high expectations and also believe the student is capable of meeting those expectations, students have been shown to be receptive to feedback and to view their teachers as unbiased.

●      Higher rates of suspension amongst black and Latino youth cannot be explained by behavioral differences. Instead, black and Latino kids are more likely to be suspended for ambiguous reasons like “disrespect” or “loitering.” Clearer guidelines and standards help reduce opportunities for bias to affect us. Similarly many interventions, such as teachers imagining themselves to be part of a stereotyped group, have been shown to reduce bias.

●      Stereotype threat contributes to underperformance of stereotyped groups by at least 62 points on the SAT. Schools and others conducting standardized tests can minimize stereotype threat by a wide variety of actions detailed in the report. Even simply moving identifying information such as name, age, race, and gender from the beginning of a test to the end has been shown to improve scores.

Topline findings on healthcare:

●      Implicit bias can lead doctors to recommend different treatments to white and black patients presenting the same symptoms. Once doctors are aware that race can be a factor in treatment recommendations, they have shown themselves able to self-correct. To ensure implicit bias does not affect diagnosis and treatment, doctors can utilize computer-assisted diagnostic tools. 

●      Physicians engaged with patients of color are less likely to seem empathetic, to elicit sufficient information, and to encourage patients to participate in decision making. This behavior may be a result of bias, but may also be a result of a physician’s own racial anxiety. Whatever the cause, this feeds into the racial anxiety of African American patients, who have a greater level of distrust toward white counselors in clinical settings with serious consequences for mental and physical health care.

●      Effective interventions differ depending on the cause of discrimination (bias or anxiety) -- highlighting the need for careful institutional assessments. Some interventions are useful in either context, such as “behavioral scripts” that set out best practices for engaging with patients and eliciting their symptoms. 

This report is the first of its kind, linking key phenomena in the mind sciences—implicit bias, racial anxiety, and stereotype threat—showing their significant impacts in the critical domains of education and health care, and offering research-driven interventions to address their effects.

See the full report.

Experts are available for interviews on this report and its implications, including connections to Ferguson. To schedule, please contact Molly Haigh at 907-750-1999.

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The Science of Equality Volume 1: Addressing Implicit Bias, Racial Anxiety, and Stereotype Threat in Education and Health Carewas co-authored by Rachel D. Godsil, Perception Institute Director of Research and Seton Hall Law Professor; Linda R. Tropp, Director, Psychology of Peace and Violence Program and University of Massachusetts Professor; Phillip Atiba Goff, Director of Center for Policing Equity, UCLA Associate Professor of Psychology and Visiting Scholar, Harvard Kennedy School; and john a. powell, Director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society and UC Berkeley Professor of Law and African American Studies

The report was published by:

The Perception Institute, formerly known as the American Values Institute, is a national consortium of mind science researchers and legal scholars who aim to make the complex science around race and the mind accessible, and show how these scientific phenomena affect every sphere of our lives. (http://perception.org)

The Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley brings together researchers, community stakeholders, policymakers and communicators to identify and challenge the barriers to an inclusive, just, and sustainable society and create transformative change. (http://diversity.berkeley.edu/haas-institute)

The Center for Policing Equity at UCLA and Harvard is a research/action think tank that promotes police transparency and accountability by facilitating innovative research collaborations between law enforcement agencies and empirical social scientists. (http://policingequity.org)