Sunday, March 11, 2012

Blood pressure drug 'reduces in-built racism'

This is another dubious exercise with the IAT. The test detects "racism" in people who are often vehemently anti-racist so the simple conclusion from that is that it is not valid. It does not measure what it purports to measure. To say it measures "implicit" racism is just faith and contrary to the evidence

What actually happened in the study below could have been that the drug slowed people down mentally and made them more inaccurate or sloppy in their sorting task.

I threw together some time ago a collection of skeptical academic comments on the IAT here. The test may measure something but we cannot be sure what. It could even measure caution about being racist. Journal abstract included below

A common heart disease drug may have the unusual side-effect of combating racism, a new study suggests. The beta-blocker drug can reduce 'subconscious' racism, the Oxford University study found.

Researchers found that people who took propranolol scored significantly lower on a standard test used to detect subconscious racial attitudes, than those who took a placebo.

Propranolol is most often used to reduce high blood pressure by lowering the heart rate, as well as angina and irregular heartbeat. It is also used to manage the physical symptoms of anxiety, and control migraine.

It is thought to work by blocking activation of the peripheral 'autonomic' nervous system, and in areas of the brain involved with formulating emotional responses, including fear, called the amygdalae.

The researchers believe propranolol reduces racial bias because such subconscious thoughts are triggered by that autonomic nervous system.

Their small study took 36 white student volunteers, gave half a single 40mg dose of propranolol and half a placebo, and asked them all to undertake the Implicit Association Test - designed to test "subtle and spontaneous biased behaviour" - two hours later.

The test requires participants to visually sort particular words like 'joy' ,'evil', 'happy' and 'glorious', as well as black and white faces, into the correct categories.

Sylvia Terbeck, lead author of the study, published in the journal Psychopharmacology, said: "Our results offer new evidence about the processes in the brain that shape implicit racial bias.

"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."

Professor Julian Savulescu, of the university's Faculty of Philosophy, and a co-author of the study, said: "Such research raises the tantalising possibility that our unconscious racial attitudes could be modulated using drugs, a possibility that requires careful ethical analysis.

"Biological research aiming to make people morally better has a dark history. And propranolol is not a pill to cure racism. But given that many people are already using drugs like propranolol which have 'moral' side effects, we at least need to better understand what these effects are."

But Dr Chris Chambers, from Cardiff University's School of Psychology, said the results should be treated with "extreme caution". He said: "We don't know whether the drug influenced racial attitudes only or whether it altered implicit brain systems more generally. And we can't rule out the possibility that the effects were due to the drug incidentally reducing heart rate.

"So although interesting, in my view these preliminary results are a long way from suggesting that propranolol specifically influences racial attitudes."

Propranolol reduces implicit negative racial bias

By Terbeck S et al.


BACKGROUND: Implicit negative attitudes towards other races are important in certain kinds of prejudicial social behaviour. Emotional mechanisms are thought to be involved in mediating implicit "outgroup" bias but there is little evidence concerning the underlying neurobiology. The aim of the present study was to examine the role of noradrenergic mechanisms in the generation of implicit racial attitudes.

METHODS: Healthy volunteers (n=36) of white ethnic origin, received a single oral dose of the β-adrenoceptor antagonist, propranolol (40 mg), in a randomised, double-blind, parallel group, placebo-controlled, design. Participants completed an explicit measure of prejudice and the racial implicit association test (IAT), 1-2 h after propranolol administration.

RESULTS: Relative to placebo, propranolol significantly lowered heart rate and abolished implicit racial bias, without affecting the measure of explicit racial prejudice. Propranolol did not affect subjective mood.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate that β-adrenoceptors play a role in the expression of implicit racial attitudes suggesting that noradrenaline-related emotional mechanisms may mediate negative racial bias. Our findings may also have practical importance given that propranolol is a widely used drug. However, further studies will be needed to examine whether a similar effect can be demonstrated in the course of clinical treatment.



An American Auto Bailout – For France?

Attention U.S. taxpayers: You now own a piece of a French car company that is drowning in red ink. That’s right. In a move little noticed outside of the business pages, General Motors last week bought more than $400 million in shares of PSA Peugeot Citroen – a 7 percent stake in the company.

Because U.S. taxpayers still own roughly one-quarter of GM, they now own a piece of Peugeot.

Peugeot can undoubtedly use the cash. Last year, Peugeot’s auto making division lost $123 million. And on March 1 – just a day after the deal with GM was announced – Moody’s downgraded Peugeot’s credit rating to junk status with a negative outlook, citing “severe deterioration” of its finances. In other words, General Motors essentially just dumped more than $400 million of taxpayer assets on junk bonds.

GM has said the deal is designed to give GM access to Peugeot’s expertise in small car and hybrid vehicle technology and ultimately allow both GM and Peugeot to save money by pooling their resources. But auto industry analysts find the deal mystifying.

An analysis by auto industry consultants IHS said it is “somewhat baffling that GM is willing to get involved in an alliance that it frankly does not need for size or complexity, while still avoiding any public plan to rationalise its European production, cut costs, or deal with labour rates.”

The deal will allow the Peugeot family to reduce its share of the family business. The family, which Forbes estimated to be worth more than $2 billion, still owns about 30 percent of the company. The Peugeots declined the opportunity to buy a piece of GM.

GM’s European operations have not enjoyed the same kind of rebound as its US operations. In fact, GM’s European operations, primarily the carmaker Opel, lost more than $700 million last year.



The ObamaCare death spiral continues

No one in the Administration has a clue what’s happening

Last week, after Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius claimed the private insurance market was in a “death spiral” long before ObamaCare came along, I pointed out that ObamaCare itself is the paramount modern example of a high-speed death spiral. Whatever one might say about the structural deficiencies of private health insurance – which are, in no small part, due to government interference – it’s taken decades for them to reach their current state. ObamaCare, by contrast, began falling apart the minute it passed. Literally billions of dollars have been dropping from its leprous bulk with every passing month.

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) of the Senate Budget Committee had the same idea, and decided to question Our Lady of the Death Spiral about it when she appeared before the Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday, leading to the following hilarious and terrifying exchange:

In the course of a few minutes, Sebelius – who will become one of the most powerful officials on Earth, once ObamaCare is fully up and running - concedes that ObamaCare’s funding mechanisms are collapsing, its costs are ballooning out of control, and it has driven the cost of insurance for American families up instead of reducing them, and she has absolutely no idea what it’s going to do to the federal budget deficit.

Give Obama four more years, and his team will do even more wonderful things that nobody understands, at a cost no one can calculate!



Top Democrat can't convince her own family about Obama's sincerity over Israel

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.), the chairman of the DNC and one of the president’s most prominent Jewish backers, is apparently having trouble convincing her own friends and family that President Obama is a friend of Israel.

While defending Obama’s record in an op-ed published today in the Florida Jewish Journal, Wasserman Schultz admits that her friends and family members routinely forward her emails raising doubts about the president’s support for the Jewish state.

“I hear the rumors, too,” Wasserman Schultz wrote in the piece titled “No Smearing a True Friend.” “I receive the dubious email forwards from friends and family.”

Wasserman Schultz’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the precise nature of these allegedly false email messages.

Wasserman Schultz also made the case that Obama has been exceedingly tough on the Iranian regime, although that country appears resolved to continue its drive for a nuclear weapons capability.

Wasserman Schultz wrote that the ultimate goal of economic sanctions and Obama’s tough rhetoric “is to stop any sinister elements of the Iranian nuclear program and compel Tehran to comply with their obligations under international law.”

When asked which elements of Iran’s nuclear program are “sinister” and which are not, Wasserman Schultz’s office again did not respond.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the other hand, has no doubt about Iran’s disputed nuclear program, stating in a speech recently that “Responsible leaders should not bet the security of their countries on the bet that the world’s most dangerous regimes won’t use the worlds most dangerous weapons.”



The Real 'Entitlement Mentality' That Is Bankrupting America

Many Republicans talk of an entitlement mentality that threatens the character and finances of the United States. In their view, the problem is that too many voters feel entitled to goodies provided by the government and financed by taxpayers.

The effort of politicians to pin the blame on voters diverts attention from the real entitlement mentality that threatens to bankrupt the nation: A political class that feels entitled to rule over the rest of us. Government spending has gone up in every years since 1954 because political leaders have pursued their own agenda rather than listening to voters.

Over the past 58 years, voters have consistently elected presidents, senators and congressman who promised to cut government spending, but it has never happened, not even once. As shown in my new book, "The People's Money," voters are ready to support the kind of long-term thoughtful changes needed to balance the budget and eliminate the federal debt. The only thing standing in the way of a solution is the nation's political leaders from both parties.

While most voters view excessive government spending as the problem, those who feel entitled to rule over the rest of us see the voters as the problem. And that's the real entitlement crisis facing the nation today. The political class wants to govern like it's 1775, a time when kings were kings and consent of the governed didn't matter.



The defender of the constitution has become an habitual violator of it

When President Obama took the oath of office three years ago, he swore to defend the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of all Americans. There were no asterisks denoting exceptions for health care providers, religious employers, service members, or military chaplains. More than three years later, his inaugural words fail to match his actions and those of his administration.

President Obama gave America a preview of his warpath against organized religion and people of faith when he undid parts of a President Bush Executive Order protecting health care providers from being required to perform, participate in, or provide a medical procedure with which they had religious or moral objection.

But in the past month alone the Obama Administration has gone guns-a-blazing, full-force against both religion and the Constitution.

First, President Obama and his “Catholic” Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius finalized a rule that will require Catholic employers to cover and pay for contraception – including abortion drugs – and sterilization. The fact that the Catholic teaching excludes artificial contraception or abortion matters not a single bit to President Obama. HHS argued that a one-year exemption is all religious organizations need in order to comply with this law. What President Obama and Secretary Sebelius do not get is that religious organizations and people of faith do not need time to renounce their faith; they need their First Amendment views to be protected.

Second, President Obama’s Secretary of the Army – a political appointee – silenced Catholic chaplains from speaking out against this HHS rule attacking religious freedom. If you are Catholic you heard in your Sunday Mass a message from your Bishop that “We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law.” But not if you were serving in the military defending the freedoms of other Americans. Instead, the Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains attempted to censor the reading of the letter from Archbishop of Military Services Timothy Broglio. After a conversation between Archbishop Broglio and Army Secretary McHugh, it was decided that line would be eliminated.

Non-Catholics, those not in the military, and even those who support the use of abortion drugs and contraception should take offense at and be outraged by the actions of the Obama Administration. It could just as easily be something other than sterilization or abortion drugs next time. This HHS rule requiring religious entities to act in contravention of their teachings is a clear violation of their rights to exercise freely their religions. The gag order on Catholic chaplains amounts to an obvious violation of free speech. Who or what is next?




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Malcolm Smith said...

Having read the "blood pressure" post, I went to the Harvard website and did the Implicit Association test for religion. For some strange reason, it said I had a greater preference for a religion I have never been involved in than the one I've been involved with since childhood. Admittedly, it said that the simple test used on the website was not completely accurate, but it did raise serious problems in my mind.
The question left open is, of course, how can you possibly get an objective measure of a person's subconscious attitudes? There would be no way to confirm or deny the measure.

Robert said...

Any bets that if the Obama regime is allowed to get away with violating First Amendment religious liberty, that taking away conscientious objector exemptions from those who have a religious objection to participating in war is next?