Studies that involve placebos usually do not inform the participants that what they’re taking is an inert substance. Instead, they are made to believe that what they’re taking is the real deal, and this triggers the placebo effect.
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[It is] a kind of ‘mind over matter’ response that seems to induce physiological benefits, even where none should otherwise be felt.
But what happens when you tell the person beforehand that what he’ll be taking is a placebo? New research suggests that it still has a positive effect on the consumer: it helps reduce neural markers of emotional distress.
When researchers conduct experiments involving non-deceptive placebos, participants are clearly informed in advance that they’ll only be given a placebo, but may also be told how placebos and the placebo effect can in certain circumstances deliver beneficial physiological outcomes, even in the absence of actual medication.
That knowledge – and people’s belief and expectation that placebos may work for them – seems to be enough to trigger the placebo effect all on its own, and all without breaching any ethical boundaries.
That somewhat surprising phenomenon is something we might be able to exploit in real-world health treatments, researchers say.
Learn more details about this research over at ScienceAlert.
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