Conscious and Unconscious Biases in Health Care

Two Types of Bias

There are two types of bias identified in the literature. In the case of explicit or conscious, the person is very clear about his or her feelings and attitudes, and related behaviors are conducted with intent. This type of bias is processed neurologically at a conscious level as declarative, semantic memory, and in words. Conscious bias in its extreme is characterized by overt negative behavior that can be expressed through physical and verbal harassment or through more subtle means such as exclusion.2-4

Implicit or unconscious bias operates outside of the person’s awareness and can be in direct contradiction to a person’s espoused beliefs and values. What is so dangerous about implicit bias is that it automatically seeps into a person’s affect or behavior and is outside of the full awareness of that person. Implicit bias can interfere with clinical assessment, decision-making, and provider-patient relationships such that the health goals that the provider and patient are seeking are compromised.5

Learn more about bias from Kimberly Papillon, Esq.:

Kimberly Papillon, Esq.
Judicial Educator, Consultant, Regular Faculty at the National Judicial College