If you give someone a sugar pill but convince them it’s a real medicine, they might get better because of the power of belief. That’s the standard story, anyway.
But as Tom and Stuart find in this episode, the more you dig into the science on placebo effects, the more you begin to doubt that the placebo effect is some innate bodily healing process that responds to beliefs. Instead, it might all just be due to mistakes and biases in the studies. Do we need to completely change the way we think about placebos?
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“The Powerful Placebo” - the paper from 1955 that made the placebo effect famous
The 1965 study on placebo effects when participants know they’re getting a sugar pill
Review from 2017 on “open-label placebo” studies
2018 review on mechanisms of how “placebos without deception” might work
Slate Star Codex article the 5-HTTLPR gene
2010 Cochrane review of “Placebo effects for all clinical conditions”
“The pervasive problem of placebos in psychology”
Review & meta-analysis of the placebo effect in studies on back pain
The Studies Show is produced by Julian Mayers at Yada Yada Productions.