Saturday, March 02, 2013

Invention of the Day: Effective Placebo

A year ago The New Yorker ran an article about placebo research at Harvard:
The findings, while difficult to translate into medicine, have been compelling. In most cases, the larger the pill, the stronger the placebo effect. Two pills are better than one, and brand-name pills trump generics. Capsules are generally more effective than pills, and injections produce a more pronounced effect than either. There is even evidence to suggest that the color of medicine influences the way one responds to it: colored pills are more likely to relieve pain than white pills; blue pills help people sleep better than red pills; and green capsules are the best bet when it comes to anxiety medication.

In short, how people feel about the pills they receive makes a real difference in the way their bodies respond to pain and disease. In a classic experiment mentioned in the article, researchers found brains of those who responded positively to placebos produced endorphins,  substances chemically similar to opiates.

I wonder if the same effect works in creativity. Many experiments show that how people feel about their chances for success directly affects outcomes (e.g. math scores, athletic achievements). It would be interesting to give people "creativity pills" and see if they come up with better ideas. Based on the placebo research, we know that the pills should be large and colorful :)

tags: creativity, biology, science, technology

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