Philosophy Student Natalia Montes Wins Neuroethics Essay Prize

Natalia Montes
Natalia Montes

Congratulations to junior philosophy minor (and psychology major) Natalia Montes, who was named the International Neuroethics Society’s 2017 Science Communication Essay Winner for her paper on the use of propranolol to reduce negative racial implicit bias in police officers.

The winning paper, “Propranolol: Beginning the Discussion on a Medical Solution to Reducing Police Brutality,” was adapted from a longer term paper written for a spring 2017 philosophy class on neuroethics taught by Laura Specker Sullivan. In the class, Specker Sullivan introduced students to a variety of readings on issues in the field of neuroscience, which the class would then analyze through an ethical philosophical lens. For their final paper assignment, students were guided through the process of identifying their own issue to explore and providing their own analysis. Montes rose to this challenge, producing what would become her prize-winning paper.

In her essay, Montes looks at a couple of possible solutions to combating police brutality against minorities, and begins the discussion of using propronalol, a heart medication (beta-blocker) that has been found to reduce negative racial implicit biases in research participants, as one of these solutions. The paper contextualizes this proposal within a broader discussion of the social crisis of police brutality and its significance in recent time relating to institutionalized racism and other racial disparities in society. Montes explains,

I extract ideas from a York University study presented at an Allen L. Edwards talk in the psychology department last spring, in which White participants were found to be less able to distinguish facial expressions of fear versus anger in Black people. Propranolol as a new possible solution in a country that values quick and cheap solutions. I propose alternate solutions to reducing this risk as it may relate to police brutality while also proposing alternate solutions and responding to possible criticisms.

Montes will reach senior status in winter 2018 and has taken several courses in the philosophy department and is close to earning her minor in philosophy. She plans to apply to graduate school for clinical and cognitive psychology and enjoys psychological research that incorporates aspects of philosophy its discussion or methods. Ideally, Montes says, she aspires to continue to draw on her philosophy training in her future career as a psychologist.

We look forward to her future contributions!

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