Scientists in the UK may have stumbled on a cure for racism. While testing a common heart disease drug, researchers say that those who took Propranolol showed  lower “implicit racist attitudes,” than those who did not take the drug.

Dr.  Dr Sylvia Terbeck, of Oxford University, led the study. She believes that the results backup the idea that a person’s racist attitudes are founded on fear. Terbeck explains, “Our results offer new evidence about the processes in the brain that shape implicit racial bias.”

Dr. Terbeck and her team also found that racially biased attitudes can occur in those who are not overtly prejudice (also known as, “I’m not racist, I have ______ friends” syndrome).

She continues: “Implicit racial bias 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.”

The study polled two groups of individuals and gave them a racial “Implicit Association Test” two hours after taking either Propranolol or a placebo pill. The test asked participants to categorize positive and negative words while viewing images of black and white people. The time taken to perform the tasks helped researchers gauge their implicit levels of racial bias. Those who had taken the drug had less of an implicit bias than their counterparts who had taken the placebo.

Despite the positive results, the drug had no affect on those who held explicitly racist views.

The Telegraph explains:

Propranolol had no effect on a different measure of “explicit” racial prejudice, religious and sexual prejudice, or prejudice against drug addicts.

These were tested using a “feeling thermometer” psychological tool used for assessing explicit prejudice. Volunteers were asked to rate how “warm” they felt towards different groups on a 10-point scale analogous to a thermometer.

The scientists wrote: “The main finding of our study is that propranolol significantly reduced implicit but not explicit racial bias.”

Despite the study’s small size and limitations, the researchers believe it raises important ethical and philosophical questions.

While the results are definitely promising, racial bias is a complicated issue that warrants extensive research. And although I wish there were a pill to cure people’s bias, I’m not sure we’ll ever reach that point.

What do you think? Will racism ever come to an end? 

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