A common heart medication is showing a very odd side effect in a new Oxford University study.
The study says volunteers who were given a common beta blocker used to lower heart rates and treat chest pains were less likely to hold prejudiced attitudes than another group treated with a placebo.
Thirty-six people took part in the study. Half received the beta-blocker and half a placebo.
Two hours later, each took a psychological exam. Participants categorized positive and negative words, along with pictures of white and black people.
A third of those who took the beta blocker scored lower on the test, suggesting they were less racially prejudiced at a subconscious level.
No one who took a placebo got that result.
And while all this may sound crazy, scientists say there is a rational explanation: racism, they maintain, is founded on fear, and beta blockers act on the part of the brain that governs fear and emotional responses.
Others say this study was so small and the results so open to interpretation, it would be unwise to draw any conclusions.