Placebo Effect

What is the Placebo Effect?

The Placebo effect is a phenomenon where, with the usage of certain substances, a “perceived” beneficial impact is created. A placebo can be a saline solution, sterile water or a pill of sugar. It is not known to have any medical significance hence is considered as a “fake” treatment. However, in some cases, they tend to produce real responses. What plays a major role in the placebo effect is the expectations of the patient – the more one expects the treatment to work, the chances of exhibiting a placebo response is higher.

In this scenario, patients are not aware that the treatment they are receiving is actually a placebo. Instead, they believe they are being administered with real treatment. A placebo is formulated in such a way that it can seem like the real treatment, be it in the form of a liquid, pill or an injection. Placebo is a substance in its inactive state and is different from the Placebo effect. The placebo effect is the consequence of medication administration which cannot be accredited to the treatment.

See Also: Immediate Response To Stimulus

Mechanism Of The Placebo Effect

The placebo effect is believed to be closely related to expectations which are generated by response expectations by self-fulfilling effects. There are two main theories of the effect, they are – Classical Conditioning and Expectancy theory. In classical conditioning, a stimulus and a placebo are used together to bring about a change with the related placebo arising from the actual stimulus.

Conditioning has long-term effects and can have an influence on the initial stages of information being processed. Upon administration of placebo painkillers, functional imaging indicates the association between the activation and various other interiors of the brain which is communicated through the top-down processes. That is dependant on the region of the human brain – frontal cortical, which produces and maintains the expectations based on cognition.

Placebo Effect Examples

In a study, people were given a placebo and told that it was a stimulant. Their pulse rate and blood pressure increased after taking the pill. The same pill was later given to the people and was told that it helps to get sleep. It then projected the opposite effects.

Placebo may either work by initiating the release endorphins, the natural painkiller or they change the perception of an individual towards pain.

Studies have been carried out on placebo antidepressants for over 12 weeks and they proved to be effective.

Other than these, placebo showed a positive effect on coughs, erectile dysfunction, epilepsy, and Parkinson’s disease.

Placebo Effect In Psychology Experiments

A placebo is an immobile substance having no side-effects in psychology. Researchers employ an experimental placebo group to explore placebo, the influence of which is compared to the outcome of the real independent variable in the group. They have effects on the psychological and physical aspects which targets the role of the well-being of the brain.


  • Placebo responses are influenced by expectations

  • They trigger the response of the hormones

  • Placebo are known to cause side effects

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Related Links: Hormones

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  1. Very beneficial 👌