Associate Professor Angela Ballantyne

Session | Bias
How unconscious biases affect your interactions with patients and colleagues

NZSA Ballantyne bio Photo

Associate Professor Ballantyne's academic interests include medical ethics education, research ethics, justice and vulnerability, and health data ethics. She has worked in schools of Medicine, Primary Health Care and Philosophy in New Zealand, Australia, England and the United States; and as the Technical Officer for Genetics and Ethics at the World Health Organization in Geneva. In 2008 and 2018 she was a Visiting Scholar at the Yale University Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics. She is currently a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the National University of Singapore and her permanent position is in the Department of Primary Health Care and General Practice at the University of Otago Wellington.

How unconscious biases affect your interactions with patients and colleagues

It turns out we don’t think anywhere near as well as we like to think we think. This revelation can be challenging for medical professionals, whose job it is to solve problems systematically and logically. Unconscious biases are preferences that inform our judgements, behaviours and decisions. Unconscious bias is typically automatic, based on stereotypes, and is triggered by our mind making quick judgements about people and events. Biases are influenced by our cultural, social and personal experiences. Research shows that these biases have a significant impact on decision-making, sometimes resulting in erroneous and harmful assumptions. Unconscious bias is particularly problematic when it conflicts with, and therefore undermines, our conscious commitments to equity, gender equality and anti-racism.