Prejudice, Behaviorism and Effective Combative Strategies

Developing and maintaining smooth race relations is something important to society and something crucial in the professional health care arena. Having a strong rapport and understanding with people from all walks of life is crucial as a professional health care provider and as a citizen. However, while some racist attitudes are overt, others are more concealed. Regardless of the type, they all require an effective approach to combat these destructive tendencies.

The study, "Effectiveness of Role-playing and Anti-Racist teaching in Reducing Student Prejudice" by McGregor, attempted to examine the impact of behavioral instruction through acting out scenarios and formal lessons on tolerance and the damages caused by bias. According to McGregor, Meta-analysis was the key strategy used to mesh the findings from a range of research studies. Studies were found in terms of a host of predetermined criteria, summarized and the results were then transferred into a standardized score deemed an "effect size" (1993). Quantitatively, 26 studies were used, offering 43 effect sizes: "Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to interpret the effect-size data. Through multiple-regression techniques, 65% of the variance was explained, and several moderating variables were found to influence the strategies effectiveness" (McGregor, 1993). Essentially McGregor found that all of these behavioral tactics were successful in minimizing racist attitudes and actions, with their effectiveness generally being very similar (McGregor, 1993).

Similarly, the study, "Reducing Prejudice: Combating Intergroup Biases by Dovido and Gaertner acknowledge the benefit of traditional teaching and instructional methods to reduce overt and more traditional forms of prejudice, generally when they occur in overt individual or collective manners (1999). However, the authors of the study astutely recognize yet another form of prejudice, and this is one which occurs in a more subtle, less conscious manner in contemporary society. This is a trickier form of prejudice to address and it requires different behavioral techniques than standard forms of prejudice. "Individual-oriented techniques can involve leading people who possess contemporary prejudices to discover inconsistencies among their self-images, values, and behaviors; such inconsistencies can arouse negative emotional states (e.g., guilt), which motivate the development of more favorable attitudes" (Dovido & Gaertner, 1999). Dovido and Gaertner explore the benefit of engaging in intergroup techniques to restructure contact and thus create more individualized perceptions of the members of the other group, increase more intimate and meaningful interactions between group members and rework boundaries to develop "more inclusive, superordinate representations of the groups" (1999). Dovido and Gaertner stress the necessity of understanding where prejudice comes from so that interventions can best be designed to effectively address prejudice (1999). Dovido and Gaertner engage in a range of experiments, finding that certain behavioral techniques to combat this form of prejudice were more effective than others.

For example, techniques which sought to engage the authentic motivations of people to be non-prejudiced (Dovido & Gaertner, 1999). Dovido and Gaertner found that when forging intergroup dynamics between people, focusing on realistic group conflict of the psychological impacts of classifying people into in-groups and out-groups were all effective methods at showcasing how damaging and problematic prejudice can be (1999). Dovido and Gaertner also discovered the benefits of forcing people, via intergroup contact to produce better representations of the groups collectively to take advantage of psychological forces to bolster them to improve attitudes towards people they might otherwise dismiss (1999). All in all, the study showcases a range of truly beneficial information and discoveries for targeting a far more subversive and hidden form of prejudice.

On the other hand, the article "Reducing Prejudice: Lessons from Social Cognitive Factors Underlying Perceiver Differences in Prejudice" by Levy takes into account a range of studies that focus on the social cognitive factors of individuals and truly examines how one can apply these discoveries in a practical manner to reduce forms of prejudice as they occur (1999). Levy examines a range of studies, highlighting the best quantitative ones and discusses how they find the most successful behavioral interventions to reduce prejudice. For example, one study focused upon interrupting stereotype enhancing processes in children and seeking to interrupt them, stopping biases before they started (1999). Levy also cites a study by Bigler and Liben where kindergartners were taught multiple forms of classification methods for pictures of people, not just gender and occupation. The study found that the more forms of classification for people that children learned; the less likely they were to engage in biased responses (1999).

On an interesting and yet slightly different note, the article, "Reducing Racial Bias Among Health Care Providers: Lessons from Social-Cognitive Psychology" by Burgess and colleagues examine a range of studies regarding the unintentional biases that sometimes occur among health care providers and seek to set out standards and advice to combat these phenomena (2007). The main goal of Burgess and associates is to develop a structure of skills and approaches which can eventually be taught to medical students and professionals to act as an obstacle to the development of racist attitudes and stereotypes which can negatively impact clinical encounters with patients (2007). The strategies Burgess and company eventually come up with are all based on the evidence of a range of quantitative studies and have a common goal to increase the motivation of each individual in the health care arena to truly want to reduce bias, increase their understanding about how bias emerges, enhance the confidence of each clinician in their own skills of successfully interacting with socially different patients, augments their abilities to regulate their emotions and show them how they can develop strong rapports with a range of patients from diverse and multi-faceted backgrounds (2007). For example, one behavioral practice that Burgess and her co-authors found to be effective was the instruction of "perspective taking" and building empathy. Burgess and colleagues admit that building empathy is a part of most medical training, but do cite that, "People tend to have less empathy for others perceived as dissimilar,77 including members of other social categories,67which typically result in low rapport.29,35,37,69 for instance, one study found that non-Hispanic White psychologists viewing videotapes of an actress playing a patient reported less empathy when the patient was described as Hispanic rather than White"(2007).

Thus, taking the time to teach clinicians the skill of putting themselves in another person's shoes is absolutely vital for empathy to be expressed in an equal and unbiased manner; imagery strategies proved successful in this endeavor as well (Burgess et al., 2007). This intricate phenomenon of overlapping dynamics is part of why teaching professional health care providers how to build partnerships with patients is so important, as having a strong rapport with an individual allows empathy to more organically emerge (Burgess et al., 2007).

In a similar fashion, the study, "Strategies for Reducing Homophobia During Medical Training" by Lock attempted to assess the best techniques for addressing how homophobic or intolerant attitudes can be perpetuated among clinicians and reviewing such biases as they exist (1998). Lock scrutinizes a range of teaching strategies to best discuss and instruct on homosexuality and homophobia as they occur in health care. Lock is able to highlight opportunities to discuss these issues during the medical school experience so that the clinical needs of homosexual patients are not overlooked and these patients still receive a top level of health care (1998).

Finally, Crisp and Turner pose the question, "Can Imagined Interactions Produce Positive Perceptions?" In a paper of the same name. "The authors track recent trends in contact theory to the emergence of extended, or indirect, forms of contact. These advances lead to an intriguing proposition: that simply imagining intergroup interactions can produce more positive perceptions of out groups" (2009). The authors stress the power of the imagination of all people and stress that if people can imagine that they have positive interactions with people from other…