Current research on nonconscious stereotyping in healthcare is limited by an emphasis on practicing physicians’ beliefs about African American patients and by heavy reliance on a measure of nonconscious processes that allows participants to exert control over their behaviors if they are motivated to appear nonbiased.
The present research examined whether nursing and medical students exhibit nonconscious activation of stereotypes about Hispanic patients using a task that subliminally primes patient ethnicity. It was hypothesized that participants would exhibit greater activation of noncompliance and health risk stereotypes after subliminal exposure to Hispanic faces compared with non-Hispanic White faces and, because ethnicity was primed outside of conscious awareness, that explicit motivations to control prejudice would not moderate stereotype activation.
Nursing and medical students completed a sequential priming task that measured the speed with which they recognized words related to noncompliance and health risk after subliminal exposure to Hispanic and non-Hispanic White faces. They then completed explicit measures of their motivation to control prejudice against Hispanics.
Both nursing and medical students exhibited greater activation of noncompliance and health risk words after subliminal exposure to Hispanic faces, compared with non-Hispanic White faces. Explicit motivations to control prejudice did not moderate stereotype activation.
These findings show that, regardless of their motivation to treat Hispanics fairly, nursing and medical students exhibit nonconscious activation of negative stereotypes when they encounter Hispanics. Implications are discussed.