Background: 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.
Objectives: 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.
Methods: 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.
Results: 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.
Discussion: 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.