An unconnected mixer grinder won’t grind things, a broken lawnmower won’t cut grass, loose hinges of a chair might make you fall, and similarly fake medication shouldn’t be able to treat illnesses, but in case of the latter, it actually does. A phenomenon known as the placebo effect can make this happen! People who take a pill thinking it to be a painkiller feel relieved from the pain, even if the pill was just a sugar tablet.
The brain, or rather the mind, plays a crucial role in the placebo effect. As said by Hippocrates, “I would rather know the person who has the disease than the disease the person has.” But placebo isn’t necessarily a pill – it could be the shirt you especially choose for an interview, a good-luck charm, a superstition, or just a belief. Sometimes simply talking to the doctor and developing a bond can also have a placebo effect. With no positive expectations, the placebo does not work and the nocebo effect takes precedence.
So, what exactly are psychological placebos? How do they highlight the unique mind-body relation? Can a patient with mere expectations of getting better change the brain’s response to pain? Are there some ethical concerns surrounding the use of placebos? Explore this interesting phenomenon in this module.