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?

About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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