Reducing racial bias among health care providers: Lessons from social-cognitive psychology

Diana Burgess, Michelle Van Ryn, John Dovidio, Somnath Saha

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

338 Scopus citations


The paper sets forth a set of evidence-based recommendations for interventions to combat unintentional bias among health care providers, drawing upon theory and research in social cognitive psychology. Our primary aim is to provide a framework that outlines strategies and skills, which can be taught to medical trainees and practicing physicians, to prevent unconscious racial attitudes and stereotypes from negatively influencing the course and outcomes of clinical encounters. These strategies and skills are designed to: l) enhance internal motivation to reduce bias, while avoiding external pressure; 2) increase understanding about the psychological basis of bias; 3) enhance providers' confidence in their ability to successfully interact with socially dissimilar patients; 4) enhance emotional regulation skills; and 5) improve the ability to build partnerships with patients. We emphasize the need for programs to provide a nonthreatening environment in which to practice new skills and the need to avoid making providers ashamed of having racial, ethnic, or cultural stereotypes. These recommendations are also intended to provide a springboard for research on interventions to reduce unintentional racial bias in health care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)882-887
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments: Dr. Burgess is supported by a Merit Review Entry Program Award from VA HSR&D. Dr. Saha is supported by awards from the VA HSR&D Advanced Career Development Program and the Robert Wood Johnson Generalist Physician Faculty Scholars Program. The authors would like to thank Dr. Hanna Bloomfield for her helpful comments.


  • Disparities
  • Ethnicity
  • Provider behavior
  • Race
  • Social cognition


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