The Placebo Paradox

Exploring the placebo effect

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A dose of contrived optimism.

The placebo effect is a long-recognised phenomenon that has played an important part in the history of medicine - from the healing powers of Stonehenge to administering placebo drugs to modern day patients. But it's not until recently that science has begun to truly understand how the placebo effect really works.

Professor Nicholas Humphrey asks why placebos work and reveals their central paradox: If we can effectively cure ourselves by taking placebo medicine, why don't we just heal ourselves straight away? 

Exploring this paradox from the perspective of evolution, Professor Humphry looks at the associated costs and benefits of pain or illness. How can placebo medications readdress this balance and is a "dose of contrived optimism" just what the doctor ordered?

Unanswered Science

This video is part of a series brought together by the All Times 10s YouTube Channel exploring ten unanswered science questions.

View the full series or explore the All Times 10s channel on YouTube. 

Themes

Being Human, Talking Science

Details

Type:
Interview
People:
Professor Nicholas Humphrey
Location:
Cambridge, UK
Published:
2013
Filmed:
2013
Credits:

Ed Prosser / The Royal Institution

Collections with this video:
Ri Shorts

cc_by-nc-sa License: Creative Commons

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