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Editorial |

Exploring Unconscious Bias in Disparities Research and Medical Education

Michelle van Ryn, PhD, MPH; Somnath Saha, MD, MPH
JAMA. 2011;306(9):995-996. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1275.
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The evidence that physician behavior and decision making may contribute to racial inequalities in health care15 is difficult to reconcile with the fact that most physicians are genuinely motivated to provide good care to all their patients.6 This apparent contradiction can cause considerable cognitive dissonance, the uncomfortable feeling that occurs when holding 2 conflicting ideas simultaneously. Cognitive dissonance has been shown to be so aversive that people are highly motivated to resolve it, often by discounting the evidence supporting one of the conflicting beliefs. For scientists, however, cognitive dissonance motivates inquiry into how 2 seemingly contradictory sets of facts can coexist. The study by Haider and colleagues7 in this issue of JAMA is part of a growing body of work applying concepts and methods from cognitive and social psychology to medical care and education research to understand and inform interventions to eliminate the physician contribution to racial inequalities in care.

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The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
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