Psychopharmacology and Prejudice

  • Sylvia Terbeck


In this chapter, studies using beta-adrenoceptor blocker propranolol and its effect on intergroup biases will be described. We found that participants showed reduced heart rate and most importantly, reduced negative racial biases after propranolol administration. Here the procedures of the experiment will be explained in detail, so that the reader will get a picture of how experiments are usually conducted. Furthermore, the results of a pharmacological fMRI study will be described, which found reduced fusiform gyrus activity only to black faces in Caucasian participants, when taking propranolol. Future research on the effect of neurotransmitters on higher order processes, such as moral judgments will also be discussed. Finally, new methods of investigation, such as the use of immersive virtual reality, will be described.


Propranolol Research methods Side-effects 


  1. Crockett, M. J., Clark, L., Hauser, M. D., & Robbins, T. W. (2010). Serotonin selectively influences moral judgment and behavior through effects on harm aversion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(40), 17433–17438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. De Dreu, C. K., Greer, L. L., Van Kleef, G. A., Shalvi, S., & Handgraaf, M. J. (2011). Oxytocin promotes human ethnocentrism. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(4), 1262–1266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Greene, J. D., Sommerville, R. B., Nystrom, L. E., Darley, J. M., & Cohen, J. D. (2001). An fMRI investigation of emotional engagement in moral judgment. Science, 293(5537), 2105–2108.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Terbeck, S., Kahane, G., McTavish, S., Savulescu, J., Cowen, P. J., & Hewstone, M. (2012). Propranolol reduces implicit negative racial bias. Psychopharmacology, 222(3), 419–424.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sylvia Terbeck
    • 1
  1. 1.School of PsychologyPlymouth University School of PsychologyPlymouthUK

Personalised recommendations