The Intriguing Placebo Effect

The Placebo effect has intrigued doctors, philosophers, and laymen alike. If you don’t know what it is, it can be briefly described as:

a beneficial effect produced by a placebo drug or treatment, which cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself, and must, therefore, be due to the patient’s belief in that treatment.

So, essentially what it is is a belief in a fake treatment that ultimately leads you to being cured just because you believe it. In other words, we trick ourselves back into health, proving that the brain is an extremely powerful entity. My classmates who take Psychology will probably know this already, but the thing about topics like these is that unless you’re involved in studying it seriously, it’s not something the ordinary person would know. Simply, the placebo effect states that people think something is better just because they are coaxed into believing it.

One of the greatest examples of the placebo effect is the treatment of depression. A study that was conducted in 2002 showed that a placebo drug being given to the subjects of this study fared just as well as the top six most prescribed depression medications, which essentially proves that depression medication’s clinical effects are negligible. The common cold has also worked in this way. Research showed that people who were given a placebo drug thinking it was the real deal fared better than those who took the actual medication thinking it would be of no use.

Better yet, the Placebo effect is not limited to just medicine. Some of the most unfortunately hilarious and curiosity invoking examples have happened in day-to-day encounters. Here are some of these examples.

1. A man came home with a bottle of wine. Upon serving his wife this, she raved about how “well textured” and “perfectly aired” this particular bottle of wine was. The man was surprised how she liked this wine, considering that it cost only $8. He later found out that she had heard $80. 

2. There was an “organic food” convention held somewhere for the members of the Benelux. The guys at one of the stalls cut up standard McDonalds’ fast food burgers, nuggets and other snacks and served it to them without telling them that these were from McDonalds’ and instead said that they were organic alternatives to fast food. The organic food “experts” tasted it and complemented it, saying things like “The structure is good. Not too sticky.” and “This definitely has more taste to it than a McDonalds burger.” It also goes to show that ‘experts’ may not be as good as they pretend to be.

3.  Someone gave their child Kool-aid saying that it was spiked with alcohol, when it clearly wasn’t. The child, obviously believed this and a few minutes later started going into a frenzy, because she actually believed she was drunk. She started walking funny and falling around even though she was sober.

4. A guy at his office reuses a “Fiji” water bottle everyday. His coworkers always want to drink from his bottle, saying ‘Fiji water tastes so good!’. It turned out he filled it each morning from the water filter on that floor. 

As are many topics of Psychology and Philosophy, the Placebo effect is very interesting and confounding. If you’re interested to read more about this, below are the sites I referenced while writing this.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s