Feeling racist? Blood pressure pill Propranolol may open hearts and minds

Article by Eric Pfeiffer. 


A commonly prescribed drug used to treat high blood pressure may have the unintended benefit of muting racist thoughts in those who take it.

A new Oxford University research study found that Propranolol, which works to combat high blood pressure, anxiety, migraines, and a number of heart ailments, affects the same part of the central nervous system that regulates subconscious attitudes on race.

“Implicit racial bias can occur even in people with a sincere belief in equality,” said Sylvia Terbeck, lead author of the study, which was published in the journal Psychopharmacology. “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.”

Of course, the study is sure to raise concerns both over its validity and whether we should rely on prescription medication to regulate behavior, even for positive outcomes.

As Cardiff University School of Psychology’s Dr. Chris Chambers told the Telegraph: “We don’t know whether the drug influenced racial attitudes only or whether it altered implicit brain systems more generally. And we can’t rule out the possibility that the effects were due to the drug incidentally reducing heart rate.”

Another point of concern is the very limited range of subjects used in the test: All 36 participants were white males.

Nonetheless, the study yielded some discussion-worthy results. According to the Telegraph, test subjects who took 40mg of Propranolol scored “significantly lower” on the Harvard University Implicit Association Test, which measures “subtle and spontaneous biased behavior.”

Science has had a long and complicated history with race and cultural issues. For example, a 2009 study trained Caucasian test subjects to better recognize the facial features of African-American men with similar characteristics. Early results from that research indicated that the individuals better equipped to differentiate between other individuals of different ethnicity displayed a greater level of racial tolerance. Conversely, the infamous “Little Albert Experiment,” which tested conditioned emotional responses in a toddler found that certain negative emotional responses could be learned, and even programmed, over time. And there’s the once-popular philosophy of Eugenics, which sought to improve the human race through natural selection. After gaining popularity with the Nazis during World War II, the term has been relegated to more of a political insult than a serious theoretical practice these days.

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8 replies »

  1. The narrative continues. Whites are bad. Racial identification is bad – unless you are non-White, in which case it’s ‘progressive.’ I had a Black professor in grad school tell me it was impossible for Blacks to ‘racist’ (whatever that means these days) because only Whites could be ‘racist’ due to the ‘White privilege.’ He told me I had benefited from ‘White privilege’ even though I grew up in a trailer in the country and both of my parents worked 60-80 hours a week so I could go to a decent school. My dad ultimately lost his position which he had worked up to over 25 years because they replaced him with a Black woman – and then asked him to train her, admitting that she knew nothing about the job. It was purely political. The narrative is backwards today. Nothing I see around me in society makes any sense.

  2. That’s a term invented by Alisdair Clarke and later adopted by James J O’ Meara (two homosexuals, by the way) for their own blog. I believe in neither an Aryan race nor in Futurism.

  3. Me being gay I don’t necessarily follow O’Meara either but at least I leave him alone to his own opinions as long as he doesn’t rip Thor’s Hammers off peoples necks and accuse them of being ‘poseurs’…

    I called attention to this story, Aster, because I really don’t think even you want others to be medicated in order to supposedly combat race-hate…

  4. “The narrative continues. Whites are bad. Racial identification is bad – unless you are non-White, in which case it’s ‘progressive.’”

    I disagree with this view, completely. Black nationalism is discouraged on a mainstream level. You can tell by the affinity for Martin Luther King’s pacifist preachings by the power elite Versus the militancy preached by Malcolm X which while favorably by many in the Black community, is certainly frowned upon by liberals who favor diversity but not ethnic self determination. Sure, a few mainstream hip hop artists may be connected to Five Percenters/NOI or whatnot but that has little or no connection with those who actually control the media.

    “I had a Black professor in grad school tell me it was impossible for Blacks to ‘racist’”

    Depending on his definition of racism, I agree with him on an institutional level. Sure, Whites can face discrimination and intolerance from Blacks on any local level, but Blacks do not occupy any position of power to cut off Whites from resources. Blacks do not “ride in the night” into White neighborhoods and drag them from their homes. Blacks do not patrol White neighborhoods and lock Whites up for to fill quotas. Blacks have absolutely no control over the prison-industrial complex, the war on drugs, urban planning, the public education system, the welfare system, etc. all which disproportionately affect Blacks in a negative light and the White liberal class in a positive one.

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