The Placebo Effect - 2 Key Takeaways

The power of belief and expectation of an outcome regardless of the lack of any substance to that belief or expectation.


The Placebo Effect - 2 Key Takeaways.
The power of belief and expectation of an outcome regardless of the lack of any substance to that belief or expectation. Graphic.

What The Placebo Effect Is And What It Isn't

Traditionally, the placebo effect occurs when false, or dummy, treatments of inert substances [that appear to be real but aren't] are administered during trials on new drugs, and patients still see their symptoms improve.

The objective is to compare the effect of the new drug on the sample of patients who received it with a sample who received the placebo and also with a further sample who received no treatment.

As a broad generalisation the placebo effect takes place with approximately 30% of the sample to who it was administered. This means that about 1 in 3 people report that they are feeling better after they have received a placebo. However this has increased to 60% in certain recent drugs trials.

The word placebo is Latin for "I will please" and this provides the key to understanding what it is and what it isn't.


The power and the benefit of the placebo lies in how it makes people feel.

Placebo is about feeling it is not about healing.

If it meant healing the word would be Sanabo  for "I will heal". Steven Ross Pomeroy, editor of "RealClearScience" says quite emphatically that:

'The placebo effect is mistakenly viewed as the "power of positive thinking" creating a physiological healing process triggered by belief or expectation, when in reality it is an improvement in perceived symptoms.'

You can not cure cancer or heal a broken leg with a placebo, but it might ease the pain and suffering associated with these conditions.







What Creates The Placebo Effect?


The placebo effect is at the interface of biology and psychology.

McGill University pain researcher Jeffrey Mogil offers a more nuanced perspective:

“The placebo effect is the most interesting phenomenon in all of science, it’s at the precise interface of biology and psychology...

Placebos seem to have the greatest power over symptoms that lie at the blurred boundary between the body and the mind.


The placebo effect is about all the other surrounding stuff that accompanies the placebo.

Ted Kaptchuk at Harvard Medial School, who is regarded as one of the world’s leading experts on the placebo effect, said in a recent interview that the study of the placebo effect is about:

“...finding out what is it that’s usually not paid attention to in medicine — the intangible that we often forget when we rely on good drugs and procedures. The placebo effect is a surrogate marker for everything that surrounds a pill. And that includes rituals, symbols, doctor-patient encounters.”

Some of these factors include:

  • Regression to the mean - In the natural course of any illness, symptoms may get better all on their own without any medical intervention.
  • Confirmation bias - People pay more attention to signs that they’re getting better and ignore signs that they’re getting worse.
  • Expectations and learning - When we take an active drug, we often feel better which creates a memory we revisit and recreate when taking a placebo.
  • Pharmacological conditioning - Incredibly, the brain can learn to associate taking a pill with relief, and produce the same brain chemicals when the real drug is replaced with a placebo.
  • Social learning- When people see others getting relief from a placebo treatment they have a greater placebo response when they undergo similar placebo treatment. In my personal opinion this is why some people derive benefit from homeothapy. 
  • Human connection - A caring and empathetic provider can create a stronger placebo response than an apathetic one. Factors as warmth, empathy, duration of interaction, and the communication of positive expectation can all create a stronger placebo effect.








The Wider Impacts Of The Placebo Effect


Traditionally we usually think of the placebo effect in the context of various medical interventions and treatments, and we associate the benefits with pain relief and feeling better.

However, there is growing evidence that the effect can also work in other ways:

  • Enhancing our physical and mental performance
  • Boosting creativity
  • Enhancing cognitive functions

Dr Christian Jarrett has written an informative article with references and resources that explore the wider impacts of the placebo effect:

The Placebo Effect Digested - 10 Amazing Findings









The Placebo Effect - 2 Key Takeaways


[1] The Power of Expectation

The placebo effect is based on the power of belief and expectation of an outcome regardless of the lack of any substance to that belief or expectation.

This is not magical thinking, but the interaction of your mind and body and the positive neurological benefits that can be generated by your belief and expectation.

How you feel has a major effect on how you think and behave.

How you think and behave has a significant effect on the quality of your response to the events in your life.

It is the cumulative effect of your response to the events in your life that shape your long term life experience.

Put simply, the stronger your response to events - the better the outcome.


[2] The Power of Empathy And Compassion

We are all susceptible to people who are persons of direct influence in our lives.

Considerable research into the placebo effect has shown how the power of empathy and compassion from a person of direct influence in someone's life can reinforce and support a positive belief and expectation.

How you make someone else feel can have a significant effect on how they think and behave and thus have a significant effect on the quality of their response to the events in their life.

Compassion is an important aspect of living a balanced life, not only is it good for the other person, it is good for you - it is in your self interest. 










Return from "Placebo Effect" to: Cognitive Distortions






English Chinese (Traditional) Russian French German Italian Spanish Vietnamese


LATEST ARTICLES

  1. The Challenges Of The Road Less Traveled

    Issues You'll Face When Playing The Long Game. The challenges of the road less traveled is loosely based around the phrase popularised by M.Scott Peck with his book "The Road Less Traveled". This arti…

    Read More

  2. How To Benefit From the Unseen Margins - 5 Key Tips For Success

    These Unseen Margins Can Have A Very Dramatic Impact On Your Life. To understand how to benefit from the unseen margins we need to start by understanding what they are and where we find them. In this…

    Read More

  3. The Art Of Thinking Clearly - How To Do More Than Just Survive And Reproduce

    3 Key Tips The art of thinking clearly starts with the sobering realisation that our brains are designed to achieve two things: Survival and Reproduction! 98% of our thinking is unconscious, automatic…

    Read More

  4. Algorithms to Live By - 5 Useful Rules Of Thumb

    5 Useful Heuristics From Algorithms To Live By The thesis of the book "Algorithms to Live By" is that algorithms developed for computers can be used by people in everyday life in a wide range of situa…

    Read More

  5. Finding Signal In The Noise - How To Avoid The Noise Bottleneck

    The Art Of Being Wise Is The Art Of Knowing What To Overlook. We are blessed and cursed to live in the digital age. We have access to more information than we can possibly handle yet we struggle to fi…

    Read More

  6. The Checklist Manifesto - Your Personal Safety Net

    A Checklist Is A Safety Net That Encourages Better Results And Prevents Avoidable Mistakes. The volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correc…

    Read More

  7. How Not To Be Stupid - 4 Key Tips

    How To Avoid The 7 Causes Of Everyday Stupidity. We are all capable of everyday stupidity as we undertake routine tasks in our business and working lives and also in our personal lives. This is not ab…

    Read More

  8. Beginners Mind And The Voice Of Experience

    Only The Experts Survived Evolution. "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." These are the famous words of Shunryu Suzuki in "Zen Mind, Beginner's Min…

    Read More

  9. The Art Of Being Alone Is A Skill

    Let's Make Today A Good Day. You may not have chosen the condition of being alone, and it may have been imposed upon you by circumstances beyond your control, but your response to the situation is wit…

    Read More

  10. Intuition & Anxiety - Are There Angels Or Devils Calling Here?

    How To Tell The Difference Between Intuition and Anxiety. How do you know whether the voice of your intuition is real or just the product of your inner anxiety? We all struggle with these inner voices…

    Read More

  11. Like A Prayer - Life Is A Mystery

    It Isn't The Process Of Prayer That’s The Problem, It’s The Way It’s Framed. Regardless of what we feel about Madonna or her song the topic of prayer often arouses strong reactions. Usually, it is som…

    Read More

  12. Fear Of Missing Out - "I'll Have What She's Having!"

    We Follow The Herd - We Mimic Other People's Choices. Fear of missing out - or FOMO as it is popularly referred to - is the feeling that everyone else in your peer group is having much more fun than y…

    Read More

  13. Free - Self Improvement Resources

    Exercising Balance and Discernment. I have just updated these self improvement resources with a number of additional sources of material that are practical and can help you change your life. Check it…

    Read More

  14. Your Higher Self - Your Hardwired Portal To The Universe

    This Is The You That Is Beyond Your Thinking Mind. This is the big you, the transcendent you, the you that is often referred to as your higher consciousness or higher self. This is the you that acts a…

    Read More

  15. The Power Of Gratitude - It's Good For You!

    Gratitude And Attitude Are Not Challenges, They Are Choices. The power of gratitude quite simply is that it is good for you! Many of us were raised by parents who instilled in us the social niceties o…

    Read More

  16. Living With Your Thoughts - 4 Tools To Help You

    Develop A Good Working Relationship With Your Mind. The first step in living with your thoughts is to understand and develop a good working relationship with all areas of your mind. The key to develop…

    Read More

  17. You Are Not Your Thoughts - How To Escape This Ferris Wheel Of Suffering

    The 4 Stages To Dealing With Your Thoughts. You are not your thoughts, at least that's what your rational mind tells you most of the time, but that's definitely not how it feels at 3 am when you have…

    Read More

  18. Finish What You Start - Action Will Destroy Your Procrastination

    4 Key Tips To Help You Finish What You Start. So why do you fail to finish what you start? Or in my case, why do I fail to even get started? There is a wealth of information out there about how to avo…

    Read More

  19. Going The Extra Mile - The Power Of One More

    Life Is Non-Linear, Which Makes The Rewards Of Continued Effort Disproportionately Big. In the pursuit of a long term goal you have to go countless extra miles to set yourself up for a big success. Go…

    Read More

  20. Tao Te Ching - Connecting To Your True Source Of Power.

    How To Be Lived By The Tao. The Tao Te Ching is one of those books that many people read, few understand, and even fewer put into practice. The only way to know the Tao is to experience it, and it is…

    Read More

  21. Dying To Self & Dropping The Ego

    Everything Does Not Revolve Around Me. The two phrases dying to self & dropping the ego are Christian and Buddhist expressions of the same fundamental truth - the need to correct the inbuilt, hardwire…

    Read More

  22. The Confident Mind - 4 Keys To Peak Performance

    Peak Performance Is Meditation In Motion. Peak performance is grounded in the Tao practise of Wu Wei which means "doing with out doing". This is all about how you take action by being so immersed in p…

    Read More

  23. Going With The Flow - The Balance Of Being And Doing

    Steer The Boat Each Day Rather Than Plan Ahead Way Into The Future. Going with the flow is about learning to become comfortable with uncertainty, and learning how to exploit the potential hidden withi…

    Read More

  24. 8 Principles For Success

    A Timeless Foundation On Which To Build Your Success. There are Universal laws and processes that work to support us and guarantee that we achieve all our goals. But first we need to know what they ar…

    Read More

  25. The Loving Father

    A Love That Will Not Let You Go. I had a loving father. I knew that I did, but I never felt it. My father was a good man but very damaged and unable to show his feelings. So I grew up knowing in my he…

    Read More

  26. Your Ebenezer Stone Of Help

    How To Stay Connected To Your True Source Of Power. Approximately 2,500 years ago the Israeli town of Kafr Qasim was close to the site of two battles between the ancient Israelis and their neighbours…

    Read More

  27. The Stockdale Paradox

    How To Deal With The Attrition Factor. The Stockdale Paradox is named after the late James Stockdale, former vice presidential candidate, naval commander and prisoner of war during the American-Vietna…

    Read More

  28. Embrace Your Fear Of Failure And Uncertainty

    We Celebrate Success And Ignore Failure. Numerous studies have been undertaken on successful people to understand what it was that they did to become so successful, how they did it and when they did i…

    Read More

  29. The Wilderness Years - 3 Keys To An Exit

    How You Got Into The Wilderness Matters Less Than The Lessons To Be Learnt There. The wilderness years can be described as any lengthy time, longer than a year, that is spend aimlessly; without an imm…

    Read More

  30. Boredom – Your Greatest Threat to Results

    We Live In A World That Glorifies The Results And Not The Process. We all know what we should be doing, but the trouble with that is that sooner of later we get bored. The enjoyment fades, the excitem…

    Read More



Get new posts by email:









Zen-Tools.Net





Support This Site