Can we govern morality through medication?  If so, should we then mandate that immoral people be forced to comply with the shared social justice of the surrounding community?

I was taken with the recent news that Propranolol, a heart medication, has shown in a limited study, to reduce Racism.  Can we really heal social imbalances just by taking a pill?  If so, should we then force feed Racists Propranolol so they can become better human beings with less aggressive hatred in their behavior?

A small study found that people’s subconscious racial bias is considerably reduced if they are taking propranolol, a heart disease drug, researchers from Oxford University wrote in the journal Psychopharmacology. The study was carried out by a team of psychologists, ethicists and psychiatrists.

Lead author, Sylvia Terbeck and team carried out an experiment on 36 individuals. 18 were given propranolol, while the other 18 took a placebo that looked just like the propranolol. They found that those on the heart medication scored considerably lower on the Implicit Attitude Test which gauged their subconscious racial bias. The test measures people’s levels of subconscious racism.

The authors stressed that propranolol made no difference in people’s explicit attitudes to races.

Overt Racism is a social construct that undermines the fabric of humanity, but if we can touch the ethereal nodes of Racism on a subconscious level, then we can certainly lessen the public outbursts of hatred where skin and religion and region create anger and fury and chaos.

Many prisons and penitentiaries divide along racial lines to ill effect, and if we were able to turn down the heat in those institutions by requiring inmates take Propranolol to reform their immoral and antisocial impulses, then we might just begin to turn around the irrational emotionalism of Racism that maintains deadly power while maiming and wounding more than it protects self interests.


  1. David,

    I am afraid that it would not work in the long run as I think it is their explicit attitudes and not the subconscious racism that drives race on race crime.

      1. I imagine that they come from deep within — from being raised the wrong way. The kind of person that would say that they don’t trust a Black person will not be sunshine and smiles with the help of a pill, I think.

        1. Right. Explicit thoughts are fomented in the subconscious mind.

          In a recent experiment, psychologists at Yale altered people’s judgments of a stranger by handing them a cup of coffee.

          The study participants, college students, had no idea that their social instincts were being deliberately manipulated. On the way to the laboratory, they had bumped into a laboratory assistant, who was holding textbooks, a clipboard, papers and a cup of hot or iced coffee — and asked for a hand with the cup.

          That was all it took: The students who held a cup of iced coffee rated a hypothetical person they later read about as being much colder, less social and more selfish than did their fellow students, who had momentarily held a cup of hot java.

          1. David,

            Your original quotation in the article states,

            The authors stressed that propranolol made no difference in people’s explicit attitudes to races.

            I imagine that if you took a truckload of Propranolol to a Klan or Skinhead meeting and gave it to them for the prescribed time, most would still be full of hate at the end.

          2. Read the whole article I linked, Gordon. The researchers were talking about time and effect. You can’t pop a pill and expect Racism to cease when intentionally (explicitly) expressed — that isn’t their point — but the subconscious effect of the medication as a long-term solution against Racism is fascinating and promising.

  2. Now imagine if we could find the element in Propranolol that causes this effect — then we could proactively add it to the water supply like floride. Our hearts would be healthier in both beating and empathy! SMILE!

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