Ben Goldacre - The Placebo and Nocebo Effects

You're probably familiar with the concept of the placebo effect: you pretend to provide some sort of treatment to a patient (sugar pill, saline shot, shaman chicken dance, homeopathic elixir, etc.), and because there is no actual medicine or treatment, there should be no improvement in the patient's physical condition... except there is, and there's the rub and the mystery...

Scientists have been studying the placebo effect systematically since at least the time when illustrious men of science like Benjamin Franklin and Antoine Lavoisier (check out more of his amazing work here and here) investigated the claims surrounding Franz Anton Mezmer's ability to harness "animal magnetism." The magnetism part turned out to be a sham, but it revealed the power of the placebo effect, as well as just how suggestible the human brain can be.

The more we look into the mystery of this phenomenon, the more interesting it gets, and here is Ben Goldacre with a hilarious and enlightening account of just how powerful this effect is, as well as the cruel, but hilarious uses to which it can be put :)


I'm going to have to see in how many of my friends I can induce asthma attacks...

Click here for the 'full treatment' on homeopathy, and here for the 'diluted' but hilarious version :)
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