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Psychological placebos have an effect

Psychological placebos have an effect


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Placebo effects do not only occur with medical treatments

Although placebos do not contain any medication, they can still contribute to positive changes in the body. Researchers have now found that placebos not only work with medical treatments, but also when they are attributed to psychological effects.

Effect without drug

Although placebos do not contain any drug, they can still contribute to medical treatment. The so-called placebo effect was also part of various scientific studies. Scientists from Portugal reported in the journal "Pain" that chronic back pain can be reduced with placebos. Other researchers are always concerned with the question of why and how sham medicine works. Swiss experts have now found that psychological placebos also have an effect.

Psychotherapy and placebo are based on very similar mechanisms

As stated in a communication from the University of Basel, psychotherapy and placebo are psychological interventions that not only have comparable effects, but are also based on very similar mechanisms:

Both forms of treatment are strongly influenced by the relationship between the practitioner and the patient and the expectation of improvement.

According to the information, previous placebo research is based on a biomedical model: a pill that is empty of content is assigned a medical meaning, which has a corresponding effect.

However, little has been known about the effects of psychological placebos.

Green calms down

Researchers in the Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy at the University of Basel have now found in three independent experiments with 421 healthy participants that placebos can also have an effect if they are ascribed certain psychological effects.

The accompanying explanation - the narrative - played an important role in the submission of the placebos, but also the type of relationship between the researchers and the test subjects.

In the experiments, short films were used as placebo, which were predominantly green in color.

According to the information, these films were presented with or without a psychological narrative ("Green calms down because it activates early emotional patterns") and in the context of a neutral or friendly relationship.

Positive effect on the state of mind

After considering the placebo, the participants assessed their personal condition for up to several days.

According to the message, it was found that the placebo had a positive effect on the patient's well-being when administered together with a psychological narrative and in the context of a friendly relationship.

According to the scientists, the observed effect was greatest after administration of the placebo, but was also detectable one week later.

Not only important for understanding psychological interventions

"The observed effects were comparable to those of psychotherapeutic interventions in the same populations," explained study leader Prof. Dr. Jens Gaab.

That psychological placebos also have significant effects is not only important for understanding psychological interventions:

"It challenges research and clinical practice to deal with these mechanisms and effects and their ethical implications."

The results of the study, in which the Psychological Institute of the University of Zurich was also involved, were published in the scientific reports. (ad)

Author and source information



Video: The Placebo Effect (May 2022).


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