# Thread: Another Placebo/Nocebo Thought Experiment.

1. 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?

2.

3. 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.

4. Originally Posted by DianeG
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?

5. 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.

6. Originally Posted by DianeG
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.

OB

7. Originally Posted by Bad Robot
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?

8. Originally Posted by Cogito Ergo Sum
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?
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• Red placebos excite patients and blue ones put them to sleep!
• Bigger placebos work better than smaller ones.
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• Placebos even work when people know it’s a placebo.

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