JMIR Medical Education
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Background: Teaching and learning about topics such as bias are challenging due to the emotional nature of bias-related discourse. However, emotions can be challenging to study in health professions education for numerous reasons. With the emergence of machine learning and natural language processing, sentiment analysis (SA) has the potential to bridge the gap. Objective: To improve our understanding of the role of emotions in bias-related discourse, we developed and conducted a SA of bias-related discourse among health professionals. Methods: We conducted a 2-stage quasi-experimental study. First, we developed a SA (algorithm) within an existing archive of interviews with health professionals about bias. SA refers to a mechanism of analysis that evaluates the sentiment of textual data by assigning scores to textual components and calculating and assigning a sentiment value to the text. Next, we applied our SA algorithm to an archive of social media discourse on Twitter that contained equity-related hashtags to compare sentiment among health professionals and the general population. Results: When tested on the initial archive, our SA algorithm was highly accurate compared to human scoring of sentiment. An analysis of bias-related social media discourse demonstrated that health professional tweets (n=555) were less neutral than the general population (n=6680) when discussing social issues on professionally associated accounts (x2 [2, n=555)]=35.455; P<.001), suggesting that health professionals attach more sentiment to their posts on Twitter than seen in the general population. Conclusions: The finding that health professionals are more likely to show and convey emotions regarding equity-related issues on social media has implications for teaching and learning about sensitive topics related to health professions education. Such emotions must therefore be considered in the design, delivery, and evaluation of equity and bias-related education.