Emergency Medicine Residents’ “Just World” Bias Is Not Associated with a Biased Case Mix
Introduction: Belief in a just world is the cognitive bias that “one gets what they deserve.” Stronger belief in a just world for others (BJW-O) has been associated with discrimination against individuals with low socioeconomic status (SES) or poor health status, as they may be perceived to have “deserved” their situation. Emergency medicine (EM) residents have been shown to “cherry pick” patients; in this study we sought to determine whether BJW-O is associated with a biased case mix seen in residency.
Methods: We assessed EM residents on their BJW-O using a scale with previous validity evidence and behavioral correlates. We identified chief complaints that residents may associate with low SES or poor health status, including psychiatric disease, substance use disorder (SUD); and patients with multidisciplinary care plans due to frequent ED visits. We then calculated the percentage of each of these patient types seen by each resident as well as correlations and a multiple linear regression.
Results: 38 of 48 (79%) residents completed the BJW-O, representing 98,825 total patient encounters. The median BJW-O score was 3.25 (interquartile range 2.81–3.75). There were no significant correlations observed between BJW-O and the percentage of patients with multidisciplinary care plans who were seen, or patients with psychiatric, SUD, dental or sickle cell chief complaints seen; and a multiple linear regression showed no significant association.
Conclusion: Higher BJW-O scores in EM residents are not significantly associated with a biased case mix of patients seen in residency.