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The power of the placebo effect – Emma Bryce


In 1996, 56 volunteers took part
in a study to test a new painkiller called
Trivaricaine. On each subject, one index finger
was covered in the new painkiller while the other remained untouched. Then, both were squeezed
in painful clamps. The subjects reported that the treated
finger hurt less than the untreated one. This shouldn’t be surprising, except Trivaricaine wasn’t actually
a painkiller, just a fake concotion
with no pain-easing properties at all. What made the students so sure
this dummy drug had worked? The answer lies in the placebo effect, an unexplained phenomenon wherein drugs, treatments, and therapies
that aren’t supposed to have an effect, and are often fake, miraculously make people feel better. Doctors have used the term placebo
since the 1700s when they realized the power of
fake drugs to improve people’s symptoms. These were administered when proper drugs
weren’t available, or if someone imagined they were ill. In fact, the word placebo
means “I shall please” in Latin, hinting at a history of placating
troubled patients. Placebos had to mimic the real treatments
in order to be convincing, so they took the form of sugar pills, water-filled injections, and even sham surgeries. Soon, doctors realized that duping people
in this way had another use: in clinical trials. By the 1950s, researchers were using
placebos as a standard tool to test new treatments. To evaluate a new drug, for instance, half the patients in a trial might receive
the real pill. The other half would get a placebo
that looked the same. Since patients wouldn’t know whether
they’d received the real thing or a dud, the results wouldn’t be biased, researchers believed. Then, if the new drug showed a significant
benefit compared to the placebo, it was proved effective. Nowadays, it’s less common to use placebos
this way because of ethical concerns. If it’s possible to compare a new drug
against an older version, or another existing drug, that’s preferable to simply giving
someone no treatment at all, especially if they have a serious ailment. In these cases, placebos are often used
as a control to fine-tune the trial so that the effects of the new versus
the old or alternative drug can be precisely compared. But of course, we know the placebos
exert their own influence, too. Thanks to the placebo effect, patients have experienced relief
from a range of ailments, including heart problems, asthma, and severe pain, even though all they’d received
was a fake drug or sham surgery. We’re still trying to understand how. Some believe that instead of being real, the placebo effect is merely confused
with other factors, like patients trying to please doctors
by falsely reporting improvements. On the other hand, researchers think that if a person
believes a fake treatment is real, their expectations of recovery actually
do trigger physiological factors that improve their symptoms. Placebos seem to be capable of causing
measurable change in blood pressure, heart rate, and the release of pain-reducing
chemicals, like endorphins. That explains why subjects in pain studies
often say placebos ease their discomfort. Placebos may even reduce levels
of stress hormones, like adrenaline, which can slow the harmful effects
of an ailment. So shouldn’t we celebrate
the placebo’s bizarre benefits? Not necessarily. If somebody believes a fake treatment
has cured them, they may miss out on drugs
or therapies that are proven to work. Plus, the positive effects
may fade over time, and often do. Placebos also cloud clinical results, making scientists even
more motivated to discover how they wield such power over us. Despite everything we know about
the human body, there are still some strange
and enduring mysteries, like the placebo effect. So what other undiscovered marvels
might we contain? It’s easy to investigate the world
around us and forget that one of its most
fascinating subjects lies right behind our eyes.

100 Comments

  1. Windows 15 FAN15000 aka Арсений Иванов Фан
    Windows 15 FAN15000 aka Арсений Иванов Фан August 6, 2019

    Ted-Ed's WNR1 Idea:
    Windows Placebo (2023)

  2. Sarah Anglin
    Sarah Anglin August 7, 2019

    whispers mixtape 1

  3. Mein Fisch
    Mein Fisch August 7, 2019

    potion of healing 2 works better

  4. Emerald Apple
    Emerald Apple August 9, 2019

    I'm pretty sure the placebo dffect is slightly to do with habit. As in, we get better because previously we would get better when given this treatment, and so our body is "used to" getting some sort of boost when given an injection, etc.

    I think doing a trial to see if how many injections and treatments (BEFOREHAND, not during, we know that more pills taken means they get more better) affects how well the patient reacts to the placebo would be good.

  5. Nina Ramadan
    Nina Ramadan August 10, 2019

    They should give drug addicts placebos so they don’t have any harm done and they don’t have any withdrawal circumstances

  6. Rishoo
    Rishoo August 11, 2019

    I've known this effect from when I was like 10. I've always had my own theory of this. If you act and tell yourself you're having fun whilst smiling over and over you just 'trick' yourself onto believing your having a fun time. But your atmosphere has got to suit what you're trying to achieve though. (I'm 12)

  7. Raisin Bread
    Raisin Bread August 11, 2019

    Does that mean people who believe essential oils work just experience the Placebo effect?

  8. Detectiv L
    Detectiv L August 12, 2019

    Best example: Homeopathic Medication 🤗

  9. Lady D
    Lady D August 14, 2019

    I hv severe chronic pain, I LOVE the placebo effect!!! Just wish i could figure out a way to take full advantage of it!

  10. Bella
    Bella August 17, 2019

    I just KNEW there was going to be a Ted Ed video on this

  11. Draco Malfoy
    Draco Malfoy August 17, 2019

    So basically we can just say that a burn doesn’t hurt instead of thinking it is…..

    Why is human nature like this?

  12. Saoirse Stark
    Saoirse Stark August 19, 2019

    mind over matter

  13. Joyce Yun
    Joyce Yun August 22, 2019

    So when I pretend I’m sick and just fake throw up and fake a fever the placebo effect is why my mother believes me?

  14. cat holic
    cat holic August 23, 2019

    this is why i dont trust my doctor :v

  15. Marwan Manowar
    Marwan Manowar August 25, 2019

    ''Illusion is half the disease, reassurance is half the medicine, and patience is the first healing steps''
    ibn sinna (year 990.AD)

  16. Rafael Temana
    Rafael Temana August 25, 2019

    The cells obey the brain. So when we think that we can be healed even without medicine, our cells will automatically heal ourselves. Patients are being fooled that the medicine they are drinking will heal them. Without knowing that it is not true, they still believe that a particular type of medicine that they are taking will make them healed. That's the placebo effect.

  17. cant relate
    cant relate August 26, 2019

    can this help me with my uti 😭😭😭😭😭😭

  18. DetectiveHailey
    DetectiveHailey August 26, 2019

    Anti vaxxers be like "weeellll essential oils are keeping me and my family healthy from those disease so there is no use for vaccines. Plus VaCciNeS GiVe yOu ThE DiSeASe"

  19. Morgan Spence
    Morgan Spence August 27, 2019

    If you tell yourself you slept well and you have lots of energy enough times till you believe it you will in fact have more energy

  20. Lóla, The alien dog
    Lóla, The alien dog August 29, 2019

    In my school lots of kids tried to skip pe classes saying that they were hurt/have a headache/ had something, so the nurse would take a very strong and bad tasting tea, put some drops of blue/red/green colored water and tell us to take it, if we were better after that she would just laugh and send ya back to classes. The tea was so bad that it was believable that there was medicine in it

  21. Hermann Fegelein
    Hermann Fegelein August 30, 2019

    When my stomach aches i think that it doesnt so this is it

  22. Bobby
    Bobby September 1, 2019

    “lacuna”

  23. Ariel Tamang
    Ariel Tamang September 2, 2019

    Then we still pay the same price…hahaha

  24. Ryhlic Maggs
    Ryhlic Maggs September 4, 2019

    This video is either from the stone age or the publisher of this video is working for a pharma company. . . The placebo effect works on all that "BELIEVE " . . . BELIEF has worked like with kids get hurt n they dont believe it will last n broken bones don't become life long handicaps or some go for god, jesus, chi, buda, or carma they all seem to work depending upon the level of BELIEF One . Its crazy to think we're magical beings. . Ill tell u what angles being jealous that we were given this power is more believable than after billions of years his most beloved and loyal, loving and faithful angels denounced god cause "how dear u also love humans too" well so the book of half truths mind u the Vatican is holding #12__ 2-6 inch thick books of the bible not to be seen by the public for fear of us all just killing OURSELVES cause its just to much. . .. . But thats what the book says

  25. KLJF
    KLJF September 7, 2019

    like when idiots feel better because a politician has told them the economy is growing .

  26. KLJF
    KLJF September 7, 2019

    it's all about belief changing matter . if you truly believe you can fly YOU CAN ! you have to do if from the top of a tall building though , come on show some faith ….

  27. Kalopolak
    Kalopolak September 7, 2019

    Thats a life hack

  28. JOE NASR
    JOE NASR September 7, 2019

    Does placebo ground positive thinking?

  29. Hish33p
    Hish33p September 7, 2019

    Does this apply for myths too? Like if you believe too much that lifting will stunt growth, will it actually stunt growth?

  30. balaji hustler
    balaji hustler September 7, 2019

    Mind over matter

  31. Syd C.
    Syd C. September 9, 2019

    Wow this video really got people thinking all I see is:
    what if…
    When…
    Even thought… Then

  32. Apoorv Potnis
    Apoorv Potnis September 9, 2019

    Loved the last line.

  33. Hussnain Sherazi
    Hussnain Sherazi September 9, 2019

    A hospital near my house did the exact same thing but they only did so once someone claimed to have been possessed by supernatural entities

  34. luster 5
    luster 5 September 9, 2019

    If placebo does not exist, than "witch doctor" and "supernatural" would not be a thing.. Hear me right though, I'm saying they exist but they are not real. People be cray cray.
    1.Cray Cray Good = as long as you don't hurt anyone, who cares.

    2. Cray Cray Bad = Mental Hospital with huge metal bars is that way —->

  35. Alex Ander
    Alex Ander September 11, 2019

    might name my daughter Placebo

  36. WattsM8
    WattsM8 September 12, 2019

    What if life is a placebo

  37. Pieface 202
    Pieface 202 September 12, 2019

    I’m not affected by the plsepoafect

  38. Ag sai
    Ag sai September 12, 2019

    "it's easy to investigate the world around us and forget that one of its most fascinating subjects lies right behind our eyes." 👌💙

  39. Medacium Bin Amon
    Medacium Bin Amon September 13, 2019

    4:03 …peach laptop,nice👍🏻

  40. Jorge Humberto Castillo Dominguez
    Jorge Humberto Castillo Dominguez September 13, 2019

    In this video the placebo effect of drugs in the body is very well explained and it is very fun

  41. Adriana Ramírez
    Adriana Ramírez September 13, 2019

    This video es very interesting because they placebo efect is very common since people get suggested too much therefore a psychological disease is created for those people I believe it's good place a place to calm your non-existent ownership and do not treat them with real medicine and damage some kind of organ.

  42. Hunter Cast
    Hunter Cast September 13, 2019

    Probably the use of drugs that have no biological action is more common because today we have to reduce the administration of some antibiotics and we can compense this with a better and strict care. Is not only psychological but yes you have to believe

  43. Daniela Montserrat
    Daniela Montserrat September 13, 2019

    The use of the antibiotics can be reaplace sometimes for placebos because our maind influences in our body.
    A healthy maind is a healthy body.

    However the placebo effect is not enough and is neccesary the use of the drugs.

  44. larry stylinson
    larry stylinson September 13, 2019

    It's like when the weather is rlly cold and you start to "believe" that it's actually hot

  45. Dan d
    Dan d September 18, 2019

    Modern day placebo: homoeopathy

  46. kiarra____ gold
    kiarra____ gold September 20, 2019

    So basically pastors

  47. Jester Abad
    Jester Abad September 24, 2019

    gazebos

  48. Artificial Intelligence
    Artificial Intelligence October 1, 2019

    So Prayer is actually a placebo effect?

  49. Initialhornet39
    Initialhornet39 October 4, 2019

    I learned how to placebo myself when I was younger by telling myself "I don't need to feel pain" over and over if I scraped my knee or something until I didn't feel any more pain. I had no clue what the placebo effect was.

  50. A Middleton
    A Middleton October 4, 2019

    I appreciate that the animators went out of their way to hammer home that yes, the experiment was definitely conducted in the 90s.

  51. Shahd
    Shahd October 5, 2019

    I have exam tomorrow abut this video , ohhh I am very tired 😩💔

  52. Krysuna
    Krysuna October 6, 2019

    This is like subliminal videos. Subliminals can have the power to actually like make your nose straighter, make you skinnier, etc. It’s all of the messages behind the music that only your subconscious should hear that’s doing that. It’s basically like if someone keeps hearing that their sooo pretty even though their not, they’ll still think they are

  53. T 25
    T 25 October 10, 2019

    Drugs sold on tv in USA 🇺🇸

  54. Losshe
    Losshe October 11, 2019

    This proves that faith and prayers do have some effect on people. You just have to pray for the right things. For sure it won't work if you're praying to win the lottery, but for things like, please give me strength to overcome obstacles would probably trigger the release of certain chemicals that would decrease your stress level and make you feel more capable of things. And firmly believing there's a higher being that looks after us and protects us would do the same thing.
    Sometimes the more I learn about science, the more I find some religious practices do have some actual benefits. It's just unfortunate that there'll always be people who abuse and misuse it.

  55. Quốc Đạt Trần
    Quốc Đạt Trần October 12, 2019

    so Rasputin used this to cure the Queen's son?

  56. Jay Lew World
    Jay Lew World October 14, 2019

    Where can I get a fake drug for my anxiety cuz maybe it's all in my head

  57. THE PR3TTY1
    THE PR3TTY1 October 14, 2019

    YOUR BRAIN IS A POWERFUL THANG!💯👊🤲

  58. Moo Moo
    Moo Moo October 16, 2019

    I have needles today hopefully I can trick myself that it doesn’t hurt

  59. David Cote
    David Cote October 23, 2019

    Me:SHHhH, don’t say that in front of the anti-vaxxers!

  60. EpicFortnite7
    EpicFortnite7 October 23, 2019

    The experimenters just wanted an excuse to clamp people’s fingers…

  61. EpicFortnite7
    EpicFortnite7 October 23, 2019

    Plot twist: sugar is an actual drug that cures everything

  62. Kalopolak
    Kalopolak October 23, 2019

    Here's my theory:
    Pain is caused to send information to brain what's wrong, so i think:
    Brain thinks that Pain is gone so brain stops the informations from that part of the body

  63. earth flower
    earth flower October 25, 2019

    Can we use placebo effect on teens who pretend to have depression ?

  64. Alix90955 Alix90955
    Alix90955 Alix90955 October 29, 2019

    Pshhh I don’t fall for it now ;-;

  65. Naief Alromi
    Naief Alromi October 29, 2019

    People would most rather lie to themselves then actually learn the truth.

  66. Queen Kairo
    Queen Kairo October 31, 2019

    Look at the animated person laughing in the back 🤣🤣🤣

  67. Flávia Oliveira
    Flávia Oliveira November 1, 2019

    great animation

  68. Phet Pham
    Phet Pham November 1, 2019

    so
    what you believe happens, like when your mom kisses a boo boo it feels better

    *intensely believes that i have a chance in life*

  69. Spongebob squarepants
    Spongebob squarepants November 1, 2019

    I came here because of IT

  70. Lucja Swietoslawska
    Lucja Swietoslawska November 1, 2019

    I DONT GET IT. WHAT IS THE POINT OF A PLACEBO. say it is a double blind. You will know who got the real pill because it will have effects but the placebo does nothing. What do you want it to do? There is no poiny

  71. энхжин энхбаатар
    энхжин энхбаатар November 13, 2019

    i want translating ted ed's videos from English language to Mongolian language. How i fulfill dream. please help me

  72. Професор Бучков
    Професор Бучков November 13, 2019

    As a person with social anxiety I was looking for other methods besides CBT to help me overcome it and I stumbled upon an EFT tapping video where a person was performing it for around 5 minutes while saying affirmations to himself. I found it interesting and saw that there were a little over 100 comments posted and from a quick glance 90% of them seemed to claim that it worked, so I told myself it wouldn't hurt to try, right?

    I began following the steps of the person in the video, doing exactly what he was doing, repeating what he was saying and after the video ended I felt this huge emotional… relief I would say? I felt this sudden burst in confidence out of nowhere, I felt like I could go anywhere, do anything and talk to anyone. I had this huge urge to go outside and actually look for and greet any of my neighbors – something I normally avoid doing at all costs. Later that day, and for a week or two after it, I felt more at ease with myself, more calm, with almost no negative thoughts about situations at all until unfortunately, by the end of the second week it began to fade.

    I decided to do a little research about what I just did by following the video's instructions and found comments and forum posts of people saying it's all a placebo effect, some even claiming it's dangerous to do this as it may backfire and bring back 10 times more anxiety so I decided I wouldn't try this again until a few months later due to certain circumstances I was forced to try it again because I got a job that required me to constantly go out. Keeping in mind the comments and forum posts regardless I decided to give it another shot but that time, you guessed it, nothing really happened. I did feel slightly calmer than usual for the rest of the day, but the next day I was pretty much back to my old self. My point is, it's amazing how we can trick our brain to such a point where we can completely change certain neural pathways (in my case from constant negative thinking, excessive worrying to calmness) although probably not permanently.

    I still wonder what it would have been like if I never read those comments and just kept doing it occasionally as I've read that the brain is malleable like the more you repeat something, it becomes automatic, pretty much what CBT does combined with the scary part which is exposure.

  73. kim jong un
    kim jong un November 14, 2019

    What about the nocebo effect?

  74. Wooden Hope
    Wooden Hope November 17, 2019

    Will you take the blue or the red pill?

  75. _Dreams Never Sleep_
    _Dreams Never Sleep_ November 18, 2019

    I'm wondering if the placebo isn't just the mind being tricked, but if we can tap into this phenomenon to heal ourselves in even a slight way by just believing it.

  76. EmptyNotebook YT
    EmptyNotebook YT November 19, 2019

    But then that makes placebo a real drug! It can effect your body!

  77. Janeeta Jacob
    Janeeta Jacob November 23, 2019

    they’re all gazebos!!!

  78. sabrina
    sabrina November 23, 2019

    Question. Basically, my roots are from Afghanistan, but I’m of American nationality. All of my family and relatives have either American or Australian accents (I have an American accent as I lived there most of my life). Living in America people always thought I was of Mexican/South American descent, whilst living in Australia people think I look Indian (even though I don’t). One day one of my Australian friends of an Indian background was shocked to find out I’m Afghan and not Indian. Immediately after she mentions that I sound kind of Afghan (even though I don’t). I’m not sure if this is part of the placebo effect because as soon as I told her one thing, she started believing it was true and linked it back to my voice, rather than the way I look. Is this part of the pIacebo effect? I obviously don’t sound Afghan and I know this because I haven’t spoken to anyone that sounds Afghan. Everyone else thinks I sound very American and some even think I sound kind of southern-y. Whenever I tell people my friend said this to me, they always start laughing because I’m not even close to being Afghan. I can’t even speak any other language besides English.

  79. Countryballs 101
    Countryballs 101 November 23, 2019

    I use water to cure spice even though I have been told it does nor work for me it does

  80. themighty_army13
    themighty_army13 November 29, 2019

    I though it was "place bo"

  81. MCplayYT _
    MCplayYT _ December 3, 2019

    When you give someone a placebo with diabetes

  82. Lettuce Chu
    Lettuce Chu December 4, 2019

    What if most illnesses are all just in your head and in order to cure yourself you just need to rid of the “sickly thoughts”.

  83. Isabella Abelardo
    Isabella Abelardo December 5, 2019

    In class say does anyone say "does anyone smell that barf smell" keep saying that

  84. Anish Pandit
    Anish Pandit December 6, 2019

    when i get headaches and i take painkillers ..i always think they are the real working drugs…but doesnt work on me …

  85. IDC Xxx
    IDC Xxx December 19, 2019

    I think placebo is a really good way of healing. Although I personally think there is a reason why only few knew of this and why it is not spread to the public. I don't think the reason is about medicine becoming unecessary but the effect of the placebo itself.
    The placebo is affected on how we transfer data to our brain in which converts this data to energy in our body, meaning the time the patient know about the placebo effect the brain instantly receive data that they are not treated at all in which creates negative energy than cancels out the energy that once the brains release that can make the situation of the patience worst this is probably the nocebo effect.

  86. Justin Davis
    Justin Davis December 20, 2019

    So I believe I can you 100% of my full strength

  87. Sayeda Fatima
    Sayeda Fatima December 24, 2019

    Easy to understand 😊👍

  88. Infinite Online
    Infinite Online December 25, 2019

    01:27
    🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣
    So they be faking surgery too?

  89. Vimal Kirti
    Vimal Kirti December 27, 2019

    What is Female Dexter doing at 0:39

  90. Arie parie
    Arie parie December 27, 2019

    Wasn't the placebo used and or found In the World War when their where no pain killers left

  91. Ishika A
    Ishika A December 29, 2019

    Basically, what you think affects your body

  92. Maleebaba So
    Maleebaba So December 29, 2019

    Good ole math and sci 😂

  93. Takai05
    Takai05 December 30, 2019

    The ark work in this lesson is amazing!

  94. esmeralda malvina
    esmeralda malvina January 3, 2020

    Placebo effect=Stone Mask

  95. Werner Fraanje
    Werner Fraanje January 5, 2020

    The placebo effect can be explained . Only our Scientists are completely wrong about how reality works. 😉

  96. SrpntHous2
    SrpntHous2 January 6, 2020

    Has the guy at the beginning been released from prison yet?

  97. Toto Taala
    Toto Taala January 10, 2020

    I think placebo effect is related to alpha waves 'cause they really do

  98. HeyItzRane
    HeyItzRane January 10, 2020

    Placebo pills are made of sugar. Can diabetic patients take "placebos" to raise their blood sugar??

  99. Just Quack3r
    Just Quack3r January 12, 2020

    i’m only here because of gazebos.

  100. Code95FIN
    Code95FIN January 15, 2020

    One word: Headology

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