March 12, 2012- A new study says that a heart disease drug can change the subconscious attitudes someone has towards race. Oxford University researchers gave the drug propranolol to 18 people and a placebo to 18 others. Researchers said the group that received the heart disease drug scored much lower on an Implicit Attitude Test. The test is a standard one given to determine subconscious racial attitudes.
Propranolol is used in treating heart disease and is a betablocker. It blocks the peripheral nervous system activation as well as the area in the brain where emotional responses and fear is formed. Researchers say the drug reduced the amount of racial bias, since that bias is based upon nonconscious, automatic fear responses that are blocked by propranolol.
The drug is prescribed to lower users’ blood pressure and to help with anxiety and panic disorders. Results from the study showed that users of the drug had lower implicit racist feelings. In other words, they appeared to be subconsciously less racist.
One of the study’s co-authors, Julian Savulescu a professor at Oxford said, “The results raise the possibility that racial attitudes at subconscious levels could be altered by using drugs, a possibility requiring a great deal of ethical analysis before ever being considered.”