Combining Explicit and Implicit Measures of Racial Discrimination in Health Research

The aim of this study was to improve measurement of discrimination for health research. The authors sought to address the concern that explicit self-reports of racial discrimination may not capture unconscious cognition.

Two assessment tools were used in this Web-based study: (1) A new application of the Implicit Association Test, a computer-based reaction-time test that measures the strength of association between an individual’s self or group and being a victim or perpetrator of racial discrimination, and (2) a validated explicit self-report measure of racial discrimination.

Among the 442 U.S.-born non-Hispanic Black participants, the explicit and implicit measures, as hypothesized, were weakly correlated and tended to be independently associated with risk of hypertension among persons with less than a college degree. Adjustments for both measures eliminated the significantly greater risk for Blacks than for Whites, reducing it to 1.1.

The results of this study suggest that the scientific rigor of research on racism and health will be improved by investigating how both unconscious and conscious mental awareness of having experienced discrimination matter for somatic and mental health.