Drug 'reduces implicit racial bias,' study suggests

March 9, 2012, Oxford University
Drug 'reduces implicit racial bias,' study suggests

(Medical Xpress) -- Taking a heart disease medication can affect a person's subconscious attitudes towards race, a team of ethicists, psychiatrists and psychologists at Oxford University has found.

In a study published in Psychopharmacology, researchers gave 18 people the drug propranolol and 18 people a and found that the propranolol group scored significantly lower on the Implicit Attitude Test into subconscious racial bias – a standard test for testing subconscious racial attitudes. There was no significant difference in the groups' explicit attitudes to other races.

Propranolol is a beta-blocker used to treat that blocks activation in the peripheral 'autonomic' nervous system and in the area of the brain implicated in fear or emotional responses. The researchers believe propranolol reduced implicit racial basis because such bias is based on automatic, non-conscious fear responses, which propranolol blocks.

Sylvia Terbeck, lead author and experimental psychologist at Oxford University, said: "Our results offer new evidence about the processes in the brain that shape implicit racial bias. Implicit can occur even in people with a sincere belief in equality. Given the key role that such implicit attitudes appear to play in discrimination against other ethnic groups, and the widespread use of propranolol for medical purposes, our findings are also of considerable ethical interest."

She added: "Many people with medical conditions are probably already on drugs which affect subconscious bias and more research is needed into how drugs which affect our nervous system affect our moral attitudes and practices."

Professor Julian Savulescu of Oxford University’s Faculty of Philosophy, a co-author, added: "Such research raises the tantalising possibility that our unconscious racial attitudes could be modulated using drugs, a possibility that requires careful ethical analysis.

"Biological research aiming to make people morally better has a dark history. And propranolol is not a pill to cure racism. But given that many people are already using drugs like which have 'moral' side effects, we at least need to better understand what these effects are."

This study is the result of a collaboration between Sylvia Terbeck and Miles Hewstone of the department of Experimental Psychology, Phil Cowen and Sarah McTavish of the Department of Psychiatry, and Guy Kahane and Julian Savulescu of the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics.

Explore further: Uintentional racial biases may affect economic and trust decisions, psychologists find

Related Stories

Uintentional racial biases may affect economic and trust decisions, psychologists find

April 25, 2011
Psychologists have found that people may make economic and trust decisions based on unconscious or unintentional racial biases. The study, conducted in the laboratory of New York University Professor Elizabeth Phelps, is ...

Beta-blocker associated with better outcomes in treatment of infantile vascular tumors

August 15, 2011
Compared with oral corticosteroids, use of the beta-blocker propranolol for treatment of infantile hemangiomas (IHs) was associated with higher rates of lesion clearance, fewer adverse effects, fewer surgical interventions ...

Recommended for you

Study with infants suggests language not necessary for reasoning ability

March 16, 2018
A team of researchers from Spain, Hungary and Poland has found via a study with infants that language may not be a necessity for the ability to reason. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes ...

Hep C compounds alcoholism's effect on brain volume

March 16, 2018
(HealthDay)—Alcohol dependence has deleterious effects on frontal cortical volumes that are compounded by hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and drug dependence, according to a study published online March 14 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Older adults' difficulties with focusing can be used to help put a face to a name

March 16, 2018
Everyone has experienced the awkward situation of meeting someone and then forgetting their name shortly after. Among older adults, this happens more often than not.

Study casts doubt on ketamine nasal sprays for depression

March 16, 2018
Researchers from the Black Dog Institute and UNSW Sydney have questioned the efficacy and safety of intranasal ketamine for depression, with their pilot trial stopped early due to poor side effects in patients.

A little anger in negotiation pays

March 16, 2018
During negotiations, high-intensity anger elicits smaller concessions than moderate-intensity anger, according to a new study by management and business experts at Rice University and Northwestern University.

Research reveals brain mechanism involved in language learning

March 15, 2018
Learning a new language may be more of a science than an art, a University of Sussex study finds.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Mar 09, 2012
Tell us something we don't know.

Racism is inherent in us genetically that forms the physical brain.

And unfortunately, the caucasions are born racists with highest statistics. That is why none caucasians do not have racism gorups.
1 / 5 (1) Mar 09, 2012
One wonders what happens after well-meaning governments feed this to all citizens.

Do we then see an explosion of interracial marriages, and later people falling in love with apes and finally their dog?

Or could it be that "racism" simply turns out to be a property of all vertebrates? Or even all species period?
not rated yet Mar 11, 2012
... caucasions are born racists ...

Sounds like a racist attitude to me.
1 / 5 (3) Mar 11, 2012
Sounds like a drug that could be used to prevent some types of bigotry. I wonder what other types of biases this would have an effect on.
not rated yet Mar 12, 2012

And unfortunately, the caucasions are born racists with highest statistics. That is why none caucasians do not have racism gorups.

If you had to deal with people like you wouldn't you? look at your grammar for example. I suspect that is shows what a fine example of humanity you are.

//I'm just trolling the troll folks nothing to see here.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.