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Thread: Another Placebo/Nocebo Thought Experiment.

  1. #1 Another Placebo/Nocebo Thought Experiment. 
    Moderator Moderator Cogito Ergo Sum's Avatar
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    Last year, I created a thread about a hypothetical experiment involving swallowing a placebo and a nocebo at the same time and measuring the effect.
    As I think that the corresponding effects of fake pills are quite fascinating, I designed another placebo/nocebo thought experiment.

    In brief: Do placebos and nocebos have equal but opposite effects on physical performances?

    Allow me to explain the question and to give my rudimentary experimental design:
    Suppose you have 100 people, between the age of 21 and 45, males and females.

    • You let them sprint 60m and measure the time needed to complete that task. You repeat that three times (with breaks of 15 min. in between).
    • Next, you let them sprint 60m, but you give them a placebo (white glucose tablet) and assure them that it has a positive effect on their top speed. You give them the placebo each time before the next run. Three runs, breaks of 15 min. in between.
    • After that, you give them a nocebo (white glucose tablet) and assure them that it has a negative effect on their top speed.
      You give them the placebo each time before the next run. Three runs, breaks of 15 min. in between.


    After you collect all that data, I could analyse it to see if there is no significant difference between no pill, a fake positive pill and a fake negative pill.
    If there is a difference, I would expect the effects to be opposite; if the average running speed is , then would be the top speed with the placebo and with the nocebo.


    What do you think?


    "The only safe rule is to dispute only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong."

    ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument (1831), Stratagem XXXVIII.
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    Forum Masters Degree DianeG's Avatar
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    I don't know how much glucose is in the tablet, but I saw a study that showed that just rinsing the mouth with a sugary drink decreased runners' feelings of fatigue. It seemed to signal the brain that it wasn't necessary to conserve energy because more was on the way.


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    AI's Have More Fun Bad Robot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DianeG View Post
    I don't know how much glucose is in the tablet, but I saw a study that showed that just rinsing the mouth with a sugary drink decreased runners' feelings of fatigue. It seemed to signal the brain that it wasn't necessary to conserve energy because more was on the way.
    I might be wrong but I would assume the pills will be very small and not contain enough sugar to influence any physical reaction. But your question does make me wonder if they have non-glucose placebos that could be used instead of the usual glucose placebos?
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    Let me tell you about an experiment I actually ran on myself. Now the sample size is just "one", so that limits the value of the experiment. I am a non athletic person but I had played around a bit with yoga breathing and relaxation techniques. In the experiment, which I repeated several times with consistent results, I would try to touch my toes without bending my knees. This is something that athletic persons regularly can do, but I cannot. I would manage to reach a point midway between my knees and ankles. Then I would do a brief yoga breathing and relaxation "exercise" to focus my mind. Then I would repeat the effort to touch my toes. I would consistently get much closer to the floor after the mental focusing.
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    Forum Bachelors Degree One beer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DianeG View Post
    I don't know how much glucose is in the tablet, but I saw a study that showed that just rinsing the mouth with a sugary drink decreased runners' feelings of fatigue. It seemed to signal the brain that it wasn't necessary to conserve energy because more was on the way.
    I saw a TV program where a guy from the army showed how to survive in cold conditions. I can't remember the exact details but he said that just sucking a sugary sweet for a few moments caused the body to 'believe' it was being fed and to keep using its energy reserves instead of shutting them down. He kept the sweet in his pocket and just popped it in his mouth every so often.


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  7. #6  
    Moderator Moderator Cogito Ergo Sum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bad Robot View Post
    I might be wrong but I would assume the pills will be very small and not contain enough sugar to influence any physical reaction. But your question does make me wonder if they have non-glucose placebos that could be used instead of the usual glucose placebos?

    Saline solutions can also be used, but it is not feasible in this experiment.
    However, if the glucose is put into a capsule (so the subject does not taste it), would it then be a good placebo/nocebo?
    "The only safe rule is to dispute only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong."

    ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument (1831), Stratagem XXXVIII.
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  8. #7  
    AI's Have More Fun Bad Robot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cogito Ergo Sum View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Bad Robot View Post
    I might be wrong but I would assume the pills will be very small and not contain enough sugar to influence any physical reaction. But your question does make me wonder if they have non-glucose placebos that could be used instead of the usual glucose placebos?

    Saline solutions can also be used, but it is not feasible in this experiment.
    However, if the glucose is put into a capsule (so the subject does not taste it), would it then be a good placebo/nocebo?
    I found the following about placebos and enjoyed it. Don't forget to click on the learn more links.
    Fun Facts Revealed in Placebo Studies


    • Red placebos excite patients and blue ones put them to sleep!
    • More expensive placebos work better than cheaper ones. learn more
    • Bigger placebos work better than smaller ones.
    • Placebo syringes work better than placebo pills. learn more
    • Placebos taken more often work better than those taken not as often.
    • Placebos even work when people know it’s a placebo.

    The Next Generation of Placebos

    Now that we know placebos can have life saving effects on people across a range of maladies, the task ahead is to figure out how to optimize the placebo effect, and how to customize placebos to perform better for individual cases.The Placebo Research Center is beginning to issue this future into reality today by taking placebo research out of the laboratories and into a world where place into a world where placebos can be studied, analyzed, and optimized. Learn more

    Placebos: Everything You Wanted To Know | Placebo Effect
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