Study Finds Widespread Bias toward Sexual Orientation among Healthcare Providers

Published Date : Jul 23, 2015

One of the first studies has been conducted that examines a variety of health care providers and their inherent attitudes towards gay men and lesbian women. Scholars have found that there is widespread implied bias towards gay men and lesbian women.

Implicit bias is a rather controversial technique in sociology and psychology where people are proved to have a certain prejudice even if they do not act in a manner that is obviously or explicitly prejudiced. In the paper, the authors used implied association to ascertain whether or not there is medium to strong implicit preferences among heterosexual health care providers for straight people over gay and lesbian people. 

However, this was found to be true in the other way around as well. Gay and lesbian health care providers were found to have explicit and implicit preferences for gay and lesbian people over straight people. Bisexual health care providers, on the other hand, were found to have mixed preferences. 

The group which was found to possess the weakest inherent bias for straight people over gay and lesbian people was mental health providers. On the other hand, nurses were found to hold the strongest implied bias for heterosexual people over gay and lesbian people. In brief, even if they do not act in a biased manner, health care providers do in fact hold a bias for people sharing similar sexual identities as themselves. 

The Sexuality Implicit Association Test has been developed to ascertain the presence of inherent bias towards either homosexual or heterosexual individuals. The demographic data and results of the implicit association test were captured for over 200,000 participants over the period of May 2006 to December 2012. 

Test takers were told to express their explicit preferences towards gay, lesbian, and heterosexual people by supporting statements such as “I strongly prefer gay people over straight people” and “I strongly prefer straight people over gay people.”