Genetic counselor implicit bias and its effects on cognitive and affective exchanges in racially discordant simulations

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1 Scopus citations


Previous studies have linked clinicians' implicit racial bias with less patient-centered communication between healthcare providers and patients in a variety of healthcare contexts. The current study extends this research by exploring the influence of implicit racial bias in genetic counselors' (GCs') facilitation of simulated clients' cognitive and emotional processing during genetic counseling sessions. We conducted a secondary analysis of a nationally representative sample of genetic counseling sessions of White and ethnic and/or racial minority (Black and Latinx) simulated clients with a subset of 60 GCs who had completed a Race Implicit Association Test (IAT). Linguistic Inquiry Word Count (LIWC) was applied to session transcripts to identify word use by the simulated client consistent with emotional and cognitive processing. The Roter Interaction Analysis System (RIAS) was used to link GC statements consistent with facilitation of emotional and cognitive processing, as used in previous studies. Multiple linear regression analyses were performed to relate LIWC and RIAS variables to GC IAT scores, client race/ethnicity, and statistical interaction between GC IAT scores and client race/ethnicity. GCs used more cognitive facilitation strategies with ethnic and/or racial minority than with White clients (p =.04). There were no statistically significant associations between GCs' pro-White implicit bias and GCs' facilitation of cognitive and emotional processing or clients' use of positive, negative, or cognitive process words. While implicit bias may affect some communication processes, our analysis did not show a relationship between GC IAT score and how GCs help clients process emotional or cognitive information conveyed during a session. It is also possible that the LIWC measure of cognitive and emotional processing is not a sensitive enough measure to capture an implicit bias effect if indeed one is present.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)332-341
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Genetic Counseling
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Linguistic Inquiry Word Count
  • Roter Interaction Analysis System
  • attitudes
  • communication
  • cultural competence
  • discrimination
  • disparities
  • diversity
  • genetic counseling
  • implicit attitudes
  • patient-provider communication
  • race/ethnicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)


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