NEW RESEARCH SHOWS DECEPTION MAY NOT BE NECESSARY FOR THE PLACEBO EFFECT
Daniel Jacobs believes in the placebo effect, the well-documented but not well-understood phenomenon in which sick patients sometimes feel the same healing effects from swallowing a sugar pill that...
That’s the basis of his startup, Placebo Effect, which is raising $50,000 through the crowdfunding site Indiegogo to build his prototype into an iPhone app that he says can harness the placebo effect in order to help people make positive changes in their lives, such as feeling happier or quitting smoking.
The app offers a variety of "placebos," including images of a pill, a magic wand, a communion wafer, and other options. "Placebo pills are actually chosen often. About 12 percent of people in our testing choose pills," he said. "The reason for that probably is that in our society, we feel that pills work really well."
He’s done limited testing with good results, he said, and plans to do more. So far, 39 people self-reported an average of 31 percent increase in the effect they were trying to create in their lives, for example joy, energy, physical healing, or love, after one use. Seven users reported no change, and one person reported a negative change and did not complete the trial.
Jacobs’ idea may sound a bit bogus, especially since it is widely believed that the placebo effect only works if the patient believes he or she is taking a real treatment. This perceived need for deception is part of the reason doctors don’t prescribe placebos, despite the fact that they can occasionally work as well as FDA-approved treatments for some conditions.