An Anti-Placebo effect?

The previous post about the Pygmalion Effect got me thinking about the Placebo Effect.

It so happens that I’m reading the chapter on placebos in Predictably Irrational (a fascinating book that I am currently enjoying very much). In this particular story, the authors found that the price of a placebo influenced its effectiveness. Seriously – expensive aspirin works better than cheap aspirin.  Could that be the reason behind the famous $25 hospital aspirin?

I presume that if our mind can cause an effect to emerge from a sugar pill, an anti-placebo effect should also exist.  Instead of just making stuff up, I consulted the Great Oracle on  the subject.  It seems others are pondering the same question:

Kathryn Ho does some actual research:  THE ANTI-PLACEBO EFFECT?

Karen wonders (and asks “The Straight Dope Science Advisory Board”)

Dear Straight Dope:

I’ve always wondered about any anti-placebo effect. For instance, I am skeptical that zinc lozenges prevent colds, but if they do, I sure want them to prevent mine, but I am worried that my skepticism will negate any real effects. So, is there an anti-placebo effect?

 Short answer: “Yes”.  Long Answer: read the column here.

 And, “Vaughan” writes in Reverse psychology in a pill: anti-placebo:

You may be aware of the placebo effect, where an inert pill has an effect because of what the patient thinks it does. You may even be aware of the nocebo effect, where an inert pill causes ‘side-effects’. But a fascinating 1970 study reported evidence for the anti-placebo effect, where an inert pill has the opposite effect of what it is expected to do.

It appears that the effect is likely real.

So, even if you love your Quack diets and treatments, there’s no point trying to win your skeptical friends over.  Whether they work for you or not, and whether they work via the placebo effect or not, it is likely to fail for a skeptic because of  the anti-placebo effect.

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