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Mind Hacks and the Placebo Effect

Placebo effect, mind hacksIn the ETech panel a few days ago, we discussed some futuristic and some emerging ways in which we can “hack our minds”, mostly from a technology point of view.

Neither myself nor the other panelists thought of suggesting the most obvious and inexpensive method, proven in thousands of research studies.

The secret compound?: Belief. Also called “the placebo effect”. Let’s see what Wikipedia says:

– “Placebo effect is the term applied by medical science to the therapeutic and healing effects of inert medicines and/or ritualistic or faith healing practices. When referring to medicines, a placebo is a preparation which is pharmacologically inert but which may have a therapeutic effect based solely on the power of suggestion.”

– “The placebo effect occurs when a patient takes an inert substance (sometimes called a “sugar pill”) in conjunction with the suggestion from an authority figure or from acquired information that the pill will aid in healing and the patient’s condition improves.”

Now, via MindHacks:

– “Bad Science looks at how the strength of the placebo effect has changed over time for different drug trials, suggesting that as our cultural beliefs change, the effectiveness dummy treatments might also change depending on how they’re presented.”

– “Similarly, The New York Times have just published a brief article on a new study that found placebos described as costing $2.50 a dose are more effective pain killers than those presented to participants as costing 10 cents a dose.”

Conclusion: the placebo effect is real, and it can benefit our health. A few implications to ponder:

– First, how do we prevent other people from selling us stuff that only works based on the placebo effect? the therapeutic value is in us, not in the stuff.

– Once we decide to do something, shouldn’t we try to “placebo” ourselves in order to get the most of it? we may not control how our beliefs affect us, but, can we manage our beliefs?

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