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Health, Science and Environment

A new study finds implicit bias against people with disabilities is growing

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New research out of Michigan State University finds that while explicit bias against people with disabilities has been declining - implicit bias is on the rise.

The study was the largest of its kind, following 300,000 people over 13 years.

Explicit bias - or what people say they believe declined between 2004 and 2017, when the study was conducted.

But people’s implicit bias, unconscious negative feelings towards a group, appear to be growing.

Dr. WIlliam Chopick is a study author. He said while people’s explicit opinions are becoming less negative,  their unconscious negative feelings towards people with disabilities appear to be growing.

“Right now we just don’t really know what the consequences of these increases are,” Chopick said.

According to Chopick, the increase in implicit bias against people with disabilities could be a product of what he called societal growing pains, as more people are faced with questions about what it means to make the country more accessible.

“This is the worry, that people will say and do all the right things but maybe internally they hold some negative feelings,” Chopick said. “That’s true about attitudes towards all sorts of groups, that people say one thing but secretly harbor feelings in another way.”

While implicit bias grew overtime for most of the studies subjects one group showed declines in both explicit and implicit bias.

“Having contact with someone with a disability significantly reduces your bias towards them,” Chopick said. “So if you know someone with a disability you are more accepting of them.”

You can read the full study here:

https://spssi.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/josi.12341