Here's the abstract of a PLoS One article, "Racial Bias in Perceptions of Others' Pain":
The present work provides evidence that people assume a priori that Blacks feel less pain than do Whites. It also demonstrates that this bias is rooted in perceptions of status and the privilege (or hardship) status confers, not race per se. Archival data from the National Football League injury reports reveal that, relative to injured White players, injured Black players are deemed more likely to play in a subsequent game, possibly because people assume they feel less pain. Experiments 1–4 show that White and Black Americans–including registered nurses and nursing students–assume that Black people feel less pain than do White people. Finally, Experiments 5 and 6 provide evidence that this bias is rooted in perceptions of status, not race per se. Taken together, these data have important implications for understanding race-related biases and healthcare disparities.
Here are descriptions of the samples for each experiment, after exclusions of respondents who did not meet criteria for inclusion:
- Experiment 1: 240 whites from the University of Virginia psychology pool or MTurk
- Experiment 2: 35 blacks from the University of Virginia psychology pool or MTurk
- Experiment 3: 43 registered nurses or nursing students
- Experiment 4: 60 persons from MTurk
- Experiment 5: 104 persons from MTurk
- Experiment 6: 245 persons from MTurk
Not the most representative samples, of course. If you're thinking that it would be interesting to see whether results hold in a nationally representative sample with a large sample size, well, that was tried, with a survey experiment as part of the Time Sharing Experiments in the Social Sciences. Here's the description of the results listed on the TESS site for the study:
Analyses yielded mixed evidence. Planned comparison were often marginal or non-significant. As predicted, White participants made (marginally) lower pain ratings for Black vs. White targets, but only when self-ratings came before target ratings. When target ratings came before self-ratings, White participants made (marginally) lower pain ratings for White vs. Black targets. Follow-up analyses suggest that White participants may have been reactant. White participants reported that they were most similar to the Black target and least similar to the White target, contrary to prediction and previous work both in our lab and others' lab. Moreover, White participants reported that Blacks were most privileged and White participants least privileged, again contrary to prediction and previous work both in our lab and others' lab.
The results of this TESS study do not invalidate the results of the six experiments and one archival study reported in the PLoS One article, but the non-reporting of the TESS study does raise questions about whether there were other unreported experiments and archival studies.
The TESS study had an unusually large and diverse sample: 586 non-Hispanic whites, 526 non-Hispanic blacks, 520 non-Hispanic Asians, and 528 Hispanics. It's too bad that these data were placed into a file drawer.