The Placebo Effect

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The placebo effect, the ability of an inert substance to deliver a cure, is an oft-remarked part of hypothesis testing. Such results are dismissed with a cursory “that is just the placebo effect.”

Rarely mentioned is just how amazing such a thing is.

Taken at its description, the placebo effect implies that a person willed themselves better. That is they were able, via the power of belief, to create a cure as good as expensively developed treatments.

Critics will claim that the original complaint was “all in their head,” but that leaves us the question of how the patient was able to will himself to sickness (and subsequent health). Presuming no person wants to be ill and feel poorly, the question is why would he “create” an illness in the first place.

The mere fact that we can create, and extinguish, illnesses through though alone, is, to me, a remarkable thing. While I understand that you cannot placebo fix a broken leg, the ability of thought to achieve any repair is worthy of more than dismissal as just an effect.

Perhaps it is the medical version of “inner game.”

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One Response to “The Placebo Effect”

  1. Jehu Says:

    While you probably couldn’t placebo fix a broken leg, I bet an effective placebo COULD help you heal faster. Placebos seem to influence morale, and morale does have pretty significant effects in terms of gross medical outcomes.
    [DU: That is true. My point was that the placebo effect is not magic that can overcome anything and everything. However it is remarkable just how powerful attitude can be.]

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