The power of the placebo

I have long been fascinated by the placebo effect – the positive impact of a non-active substance or procedure which seems to mimic the effect of a drug or treatment. This evening, I got round to watching a television programme on the subject that I recorded 10 days ago.

The BBC2 Horizon programme is called “The Power Of The Placebo”. It shows the powerful effect of a placebo when the person does not know that a placebo has been administered AND even when the person is told that placebo is involved. It shows how the placebo effect can be triggered without a pill or physical intervention – just by hypnosis.

Amazing stuff. And you can see three short clips from the programme here.

In my view, the placebo effect is why people report all sorts of strange things as working for them – such as homeopathy, acupuncture,  chiropractic and  even faith healing.


  • Nadine Wiseman

    Hello Roger

    Here’s a related “Dear Mr Manners” question for you –

    What is the polite way to respond when a friend or colleague recommends, often with enthusiasm, that you try these “strange” therapies (chiropractic, acupuncture, osteopathy etc)?



  • Roger Darlington

    Hi, Nadine.

    I have been in this position several times.

    I usually start by saying: “Thank you for the suggestion and I know you mean well, but it’s not for me.”

    If I am pressed as to why it is not for me, I try to explain that there is no convincing scientific evidence based on double blind studies to support the efficacy of the proposed substance or process.

    If I am assured that the substance or process has ‘worked’ for the person making the suggestion or his/her relative/friend, I then try to explain the role of the placebo effect.

    If I am then told that – even if it is a placebo effect – I should try it, I explain that it will not work for me because I do not believe in its efficacy.

    By this stage, the person has usually given up on me!

  • Danila

    Faith…and the power of the mind … A powerful healing cocktail!


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