First Advisor

Kerth O’Brien

Date of Publication

Summer 8-10-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Applied Psychology






African Americans -- Medical care -- Attitudes, Physician and patient, Discrimination in medical care, Communication in medicine



Physical Description

1 online resource (ix, 141 pages)


This dissertation explored mistrust through focus group discussions (study 1), responses to standardized laboratory vignettes (study 2), and survey questionnaires (study 3). In the first study, I found that African American community members (N=60) experienced perceived discrimination, medical mistrust, and poor communication in numerous and interrelated ways. For example, medical mistrust occurred when clinicians did not convey respect to patients, leaving patients to wonder whether their clinician's treatment was discriminatory or not. Based on these findings, I wanted to see whether these experiences of perceived discrimination and mistrust were related to other dimensions of Black experience, such as racial identity. I conducted a secondary analysis of data from a laboratory study (Somnath Saha, PI) in which 104 primary care patients viewed video-recorded, standardized vignettes depicting a cardiologist recommending heart bypass surgery to a patient diagnosed with angina and 3-vessel coronary artery disease. In this study, those who viewed a video of European American cardiologist-actors had lower physician mistrust and lower hypothetical likelihood of having bypass surgery compared to those who viewed the video of African American cardiologist-actors. However, racial centrality did not moderate the relationship between ethnicity of the cardiologist-actor and patients' decision making. The third study explored other dimensions of racial identity (e.g., unfavorable public regard for African Americans) and mistrust (e.g., medical mistrust), while also exploring their association with perceived healthcare discrimination among African American community members (N=210). In this study, perceived discrimination was positively associated with racial centrality, but not associated with unfavorable public regard. Perceived discrimination was also positively associated with medical mistrust and physician mistrust. Although racial centrality and unfavorable public regard were not significant moderators between perceived discrimination and the two dimensions of mistrust, they were positively associated with medical mistrust. Together, these studies provide a better understanding of African Americans' healthcare attitudes and experiences, particularly mistrust toward medical institutions and clinicians. For example, the association between racial centrality and perceived discrimination may suggest that past experience of discrimination in healthcare may influence a person to seek others who experience similar stressors, giving way to identifying more with her or his racial group. Racial centrality may influence a person's trust towards healthcare, prior to entering the doctor's office. However, once the person enters the doctor's office, racial centrality may play a less significant role the patient's trust towards her or his provider. These findings generated new questions to explore for future studies. For example, future studies should explore the relationship between racial centrality and African Americans' healthcare behavioral responses. In addition, the current studies only focused only on attitudes and perspectives; future studies should investigate how the construct medical mistrust may influence health-related outcomes such as adherence in race-discordant patient-provider relationships.


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