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Placebo Effect: A Beginner’s Guide


Placebo EffectAn Overview of All Things Placebo

This resource is a beginner’s guide to the placebo effect. On this page, you’ll find the placebo effect definition, a quick primer on the placebo effect, an overview of how the placebo effect works, links to a directory of important placebo studies, and a glossary of important placebo effect terms.

Placebo Effect Definition

The Placebo Research Center defines the placebo effect as: the beneficial physical or psychological change in a person resulting from conscious or non-conscious “beliefs” unaided by any medically active pill or procedure. The definition of a placebo effect will vary depending on the resources you search on the web, and how familiar those resources is with 21st century placebo research. Some sources, including, still, Wikipedia’s placebo article, still incorrectly define the placebo effect as, “a simulated or otherwise medically ineffectual treatment for a disease or other medical condition intended to deceive the recipient.” Mountains of recent medical research demonstrates that the placebo effect is quite “medically effectual” and others mountains of research have demonstrated that deception is not required for a placebo effect to take place. As more people begin to learn the science behind the placebo effect, such incorrect popular definitions will begin to change (and hopefully Wikipedia will update it’s placebo definition soon!).

A Quick Placebo Effect Primer

  • A placebo doesn’t require manipulation to work. In a recent Harvard study, a bottle with pills labeled PLACEBO worked just as well as the best medication.
  • A placebo can keep heart failure patients alive. In a worldwide study with thousands of patients, those taking a placebo regularly experienced similar reduced mortality as those taking a heart failure pill.
  • A placebo effect is responsible for the benefits of most alternative medicine. Those benefits aren’t small, and often provides enormous relief.
  • Prozac did even worse than a placebo in 7 out of the last 10 pharmaceutical studies. Fact #23 explains the study behind this amazing result.
  • Heart failure patients had a 60% greater life expectancy when taking a placebo than when not taking a placebo.
  • Erectile dysfunction caused by medication is no match for a placebo. Placebo pills cured all but one patient in a groundbreaking study.
  • Placebos work just as well when you tell patients they are taking a placebo as when you don’t.
  • Placebos help you play golf better, do more push ups, and even take away your cough. You’ll find these facts and many more in the ebook.
  • Even placebo arthroscopic surgery (fake surgery!) works just as well as the real thing.

The Origin of the Placebo Effect

There is no set origin of the placebo effect. Since the beginning of humanity, medicine men, spiritual leaders, and mothers who have known how to use placebos to cure everything from a baby’s cry to otherwise incurable physical maladies. The word “placebo” was first used in 14th century Vespers to the Dead. In context, placebo meant, literally, “I shall please.” Thus a placebo effect, in its original meaning, is simply the effect of pleasing a person.

How the Placebo Effect Works

At the Placebo Research Center, we use a simple formula to explain how the placebo effect works. Its power lies in one’s beliefs. We define “belief” as: one’s observations, one’s interpretations of observations (e.g. one’s thoughts and emotions), and one’s actions on behalf of those observations (e.g. rituals that support or undermine. Most placebo effects result from unconscious observations, interpretations, and actions. Our research work involves help people bring the placebo effects we create in our lives to consciousness so that we can benefit even more from the placebo effect.

Placebo Effect Directory

Placebo Effect Glossary

Placebo Clinical Trial: Any medical trial for a pill or procedure that is tested against a “placebo group” (i.e. a group of people provided with placebos) to test the real efficacy of that pill or procedure.

Placebo Double-Blind Studies: Placebo clinical trials in which neither the doctor nor the patient knows which group is receiving the placebo. Double-blind studies are necessary to ensure patients aren’t affected by doctors who believe a pill or procedure will or will not work.

Placebo Meaning: Placebo is a latin word that literally means “I shall please”. People who experience a placebo effect are experiencing a pleasing effect that is not due to medical intervention.

Placebo Treatment: Placebo treatments can very from placebo pills or procedures that exist in a doctors office to rituals and repeated events that people experience in church or religious ceremonies. Because a placebo effect is a result of someone’s conscious or unconscious experience rather than a medically active substance, the forms that people interact with to create a placebo aren’t nearly as important as the reality that a placebo effect is actually happening.

Placebo Experiments: Placebo Experiments, or double-blind-placebo controlled experiences, are experiments in which pills or procedures are tested against a placebo version of the pill. These experiments can do a good job isolating variables, but there is work that needs to be done to optimize it.

Placebo Psychology: Many of the techniques psychologists use to support their patients in better health are in fact harnessing some of the principals of the placebo effect. integrating the placebo effect into psychology in a transparent and honest way can help people to create transformation in their lives that otherwise my be considered distant.

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  1. Pingback: Powerful Placebo | HEALTHYfashionista.com May 7, 2013

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  2. Scott, May 29, 2013
    Awesome. I just used your site to write a paper about recovery. Reply
  3. Pingback: All in the mind …. the placebo effect (2/3) | DomesticSciences July 25, 2013

    [...] Website: Placebo Effect – A Beginner’s Guide    http://www.placeboeffect.com/placebo-… [...]

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