Monday, June 18, 2018

Harnessing the power of placebos

The power of the Placebo effect is well document with patients who are let to believe that  
that a pain-pill will give them pain relief while in reality they where getting a sugar pill. Yet the patients actually experienced relief.  A person's expectation  effects both perceptions as well as physiological responding. In a 2016 TEDMED Talk we hear from Alia Crum, a Stanford professor, athlete, and psychologist. She investigates how our mindset can affect our health behaviors and outcomes. Crum shares her research on placebos and builds the case for considering  the placebo effect as more than just a mysterious effect but  one with lots of potential and real power to help patients. She explores how the social context plays a big role setting expectations in our minds and actually contributes in improving outcomes. What the patients thinks of the doctor; was the doctor warm and engaging, or cold ? All these social context are important to the expectation of the brain and can actually produce a placebos effect just as well as the sugar pill. 

Here is the link on Alia Crum’s TEDMED Talk:


  1. I was an institutional pharmacy technician for nursing homes and rehab centers several years ago. Quite a few patients were prescribed placebo capsules by their physicians. They come in multiple colors to try to match the capsules the patient's were already receiving.

  2. Very interesting post! I personally believe this is why painkillers and sleeping medications don't work on me. By nature I am quite cynical and pessimistic, which doesn't do my frequent headaches, muscle aches, and insomnia any favors. This would explain why these medications don't help: because I don't expect them to. Very fascinating!