Scientists have come up with a new name for experiments that utilize placebos
Trick or treatment
I’m addicted to placebos.
I could quit but it wouldn’t matter.
On my way home from work today I was listening to Placebo..
I thought I was listening to something else, but obviously I was the control group.
Is that placebo working for you?
Well, now that you mention it, no.
My doctor is concerned my hypochondria is getting worse
So he put me on stronger placebos.
I got in trouble for using performance enhancing drugs
I took a placebo before my psychology exam
I was part of a scientific study on the calming effects of listening to the Three Tenors.
I felt great, but was in the control group. It turns out I was listening to Placebo Domingo.
What is now emerging as ‘placebo science’ has its roots in an influential 1955 paper entitled ‘The Powerful Placebo’ by Henry K. Beecher which proposed that placebo effects were clinically important. This remains the most commonly-cited placebo reference.
Henry Knowles Beecher (February 4, 1904 – July 25, 1976) was a pioneering American anesthesiologist, medical ethicist, and investigator of the placebo effect at Harvard Medical School, which now, fittingly enough, co-convenes the Program in Placebo Studies & Therapeutic Encounter (PiPS)
with the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
The prestigious Beecher Prize, named in his honor, is awarded annually by Harvard Medical School to a medical student who has produced exceptional work in the field of medical ethics.
The ‘open’ and ‘close’ buttons in elevators, the ‘hurry up cross now’ buttons on street crossings and even the thermostat controls in hotel rooms may all be making use of the placebo effect, claims The Sydney Morning Herald
Are aphrodisiacs placebos? What would happen if you spent a whole day eating them?
Read about Insider writer Sara Hendricks’s experiment with binge-eating foods claimed to have aphrodisiac properties, leading up to (spoiler alert) her conclusion that “at the end of the day, whether or not an aphrodisiac food works might simply depend on how much faith you have in the placebo effect. Aphrodisiacs, as it turns out, may very well be in the eye of the beholder.”
No, seriously, do they?
“Is the placebo effect biologically real? We’re not sure. But, if it is, then it is safe to say that it evolved over time, that it confers some survival advantage, and most importantly, it should also be able to be seen in other organisms. It has been reported in rats on occasion. But, what if we could study the placebo effect in lower organisms like fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) or worms (Caenorhabditis elegans)?
In the study of aging, these tiny, but powerful animals who age quickly, make it easier to do many experiments in a shorter period of time. Worms, in particular, are a fantastic model for the field of dietary restriction (DR), a programmed method of reducing calorie intake and the most scientifically sound method of extending lifespan. But in worms, the extended lifespan offered through DR is disrupted by the smell of food which tricks their bodies out of DR mode and stops the extension of life.”
We usually think of placebos as tools for therapy, or perhaps as marketing strategies, but here’s an idea about the placebo effect and creative thinking.
“The placebo effect is best known in medicine for making people feel better when they are given sham treatments. Now there is growing interest in using placebos to boost athletic and cognitive abilities.
Previous studies have found that people lift more weight and cycle harder when they take medicines with no active ingredients that are falsely labelled as performance-enhancing substances. Placebo pills have also been shown to improve scores in memory tests.
They asked 90 university students to sniff a substance that smelled of cinnamon. Half the students were informed that the substance had been designed to enhance creativity.
The participants then completed a series of tasks designed to test their creativity. One involved rearranging squares on a computer screen into different shapes. Another required them to think up new uses for everyday items like shoes, pins and buttons.
Those who were told the smelly substance increased creativity scored higher on measures of originality. For example, they came up with more unusual shape configurations and novel applications for the everyday items. “The improvements weren’t enough to turn you into the next Picasso, but they were significant,” says Noy.”
Read the full article here.
Placebo treatments seem to have an effect on pets … but is the effect on the pets themselves, or ‘second hand’ through a placebo effect on pet owners? Find out here.
Do the buttons on crosswalks – and for that matter, the ones that ‘call’ an elevator – actually work? Or are they there for the placebo effect, to help us calm down and wait patiently …?