Placebo Effect | Placebo Uses | Placebo Effect Experiments | Placebo Sources

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How effective a placebo is depends on several different factors. Do you think something as simple as the color of a pill, the price of a treatment, or even the packaging it comes in could create a difference in how a placebo works? Research has shown that subtle differences in the presentation of placebos given can have a major effect on their performance. In one study, two groups of volunteers were given electric shocks to the wrist and afterwards given placebo pain killers. The difference between the two groups was one received a placebo pain killer that cost $2.50 while the other group was given a placebo pain killer that only cost 10¢. After taking the placebos, the groups were again given electric shocks to their wrists, and both groups experienced less pain; however, 85% of the $2.50 group felt pain relief while only 61% from the 10¢ group felt less pain. The difference in percentages resulted from the variation in price. People assume that if a treatment is more expensive, it must be more valuable and effective. The more a person believes and expects the treatment to reduce his or her pain, the more he will experience that result. The video below discusses a variety of topics on how placebos work according to their presentation, a placebo colored blue “works better as a downer and placebos that are red work better as uppers.” Essentially, how a person perceives a placebo plays an important role in how much he or she believes in the treatment, which in turn determines the effectiveness of the placebo.

What is this placebo supposed to do? How effective is it? Will it make me all better? Placebos revolve around expectations and beliefs. "Placebos have therapeutic value only if the patient believes they will work." (Placebo Effect, 2009) The way the placebo effect works is by manipulating patients into believing they are getting a treatment that has a scientifically proven medical element to it that will cure their disease or illness, when in reality they are receiving a placebo treatment which has no pharmacological value, but they are unaware of this trickery. By keeping the patient in the dark about the switch up, they will still believe they are getting the real drug or treatment and this leads to his or her brain to work and produce substances that will give the patient his desired result. However, if the individual does not believe in the treatment from the start, then his body will not play along, so to speak, and he will not be cured. People’s expectations and beliefs can be enhanced by simply changing how the placebo is presented or how they perceive it. How a doctor interacts with the patient, how believable the doctor makes the placebo seem, and even how much the doctor says it will cost can alter how the treatment works. What counts is the reality present in the brain, not the pharmacological one. The nervous system expectation in relation to the effects of a drug can withdraw, relapse or enlarge the pharmacological reactions to this drug. This expectation can also cause inert substances to bring forth effects that actually don't depend on them. We could even say the placebo effect is a therapeutically positive or negative result based on an individual’s expectations implanted in the nervous system of the patient, resulting from the prior use of medicines, contact with doctors, and information obtained by means of reading and remarks from other people. The point to remember is: the effectiveness of a placebo depends on the expectations, beliefs, and perceptions of the patient receiving the placebo.