White Paper – PaulaJean5

PaulaJean’s Proposal

I am going to be researching the placebo effect and how the medical aspect of placebo effects relate to social stereotypical placebos or expectation bias. More specifically, the effect of people’s demographics and what other people say on their self-esteem and behaviors due to stereotypes or negative connotation.

PaulaJean’s Sources

Asking Students to Confirm Their Gender Before a Test Leads to Lower Scores for Girls, Higher for Boys

The essential content of this article: This article focuses on a study done by the Educational Testing Services where they asked a group of males/females to confirm their gender before the test and another group after. The females who got asked the inquiry about gender did worse than the other females who got asked after. The males who got asked before did better than the others who got asked the question after the test.

What it proves: The study in this article will help me prove that just mentioning somebody’s gender to them before they take a test will trigger an unconscious stereotype in their head and make them perform due to that specific stereotype. This shows how much we focus on other stereotypes around us without knowing.

Stinking Thinking and Expectation Bias

The essential content of this article: Stinking Thinking or ST language triggers negative thoughts that will bring ones self-esteem down, making them believe they will fail or that they are terrible people. This kind of language will change one’s mind about their own self. Certain phrases are said with the intention to lower one’s confidence. There are many ways of thinking/speaking that easily shape the way a person thinks. (i.e. “What if…?, “I should have…”, or the belief negative emotions make something real.)

What it proves: My thesis was created to essentially research how one’s language, phrasing, and/or perceptiveness to negativity effects one’s self-esteem. This article provides me with information that shows just by using certain words and phrases one can change somebody’s whole mood and confidence level. The way a person words the things they say can make other people around them acquire certain beliefs.

Enhancing Placebo Effects: Insights from Social Psychology

The essential content of this article: This study focuses on social psychology and how you can apply it to life and increase positive expectancies in clinical settings. Providing a comfortable office, many awards for the doctor/therapist, multiple degrees, and also a sense of comfort and familiarity will let a patient believe that any type of treatment will work as long as it is paired with these social psychology implications.

What it proves: My thesis focuses on things people say or do that change what you believe in or think. In this case, the way the office looked and people acted shaped a patient’s opinion on a certain treatment. This helps me show a real life example where this relationship exists and occurs.

The Weird Power of the Placebo Effect, Explained

The essential content of this article: This article focuses on the different types of effects and what causes them. Regression to the mean is an effect that is caused by time. As time goes on, the sickness/disorder will be healed by time. Confirmation bias is when a patient’s focus shifts from the sickness to the recovery. This shift lets the ill person recognize signs of health and recovery which will end up in ignorance towards the signs of illness. Expectations and learning tell us that we should respond to pain and/or medicines due to the cues we receive from our environment. For example, if a patient receives painkillers from a pump that they cannot see, they will need twice as much medicine as the patients who watch the doctor actually administer it to them. Pharmacological conditioning is related to learning and conditioned responses. If a patient takes a painkiller and then switches to a placebo unknowingly, it will provide the same response as the painkiller as the patient’s body was trained to relieve pain when it took that specific pill. Social learning works in the same way as watching somebody else take a pill that eases pain, will make that certain pill work for them as well. Human connection also has a big effect on what one feels as warmth and empathy can actually help kick start or push along the healing process more so than patients not receiving the same attention and warmth.

What it proves: This proves that there many ways to alter one’s thoughts and beliefs. For example, a lot of what a hospital is is a placebo which makes you more trusting of the treatment. The way the world works around us really creates and shapes how we will think until another placebo pops up and changes our train of thought yet again.

Dogs and the Placebo Effect

The essential content of this article: This article focuses on the placebo effect on animals. There was a study done where a dog was given actual pills and then switched to placebos. They had a way to measure the dog’s pain and found out that the placebos actually worked as a painkiller.

What it proves: This proves just how subconscious the placebo effect is. Dogs, who do not have the cognitive capacity to understand what the pill is actually trying to do for them, are susceptible to the placebo effect. This proves how effective a placebo can be.

Getting Drunk on Expectations

The essential content of this article: This article’s main focus is on the fact that you can be drinking non-alcoholic beer and get drunk. Of course, you can’t know it is non-alcoholic, but just the scene of a party can itself can get you drunk. Alcoholics are advised to not drink non-alcoholic beer and be in a party setting because it can cause a relapse in their recovery. Drinking out of a keg is enough of a cue to trigger the intoxicated feeling. The “needle freak phenomenon” is another example of this. People with an addiction to heroin can inject themselves with a saline solution, thinking it is heroin, and  get an instantaneous high. Cues themselves are very powerful.

What it proves: This proves how our minds can trick us. Just by setting up our atmosphere in a way that is familiar with certain feelings and experiences, we can feel certain ways without the stimulus even being present.

Are Diets Just Placebos?

The essential content of this article: This article focuses on how diets may not be working because of the actual diet, but because of the act. They have done many experiments, and each one showed how just by being told the food was healthy or a part of a diet.

What it proves: This proves, once again, how powerful our minds are. If we are told something will help us lose weight, we start losing weight and feeling healthier even if it is not exactly scientifically proven.

Placebo of HIV Trials

The essential content of this article: Between 1996 and 1999, there were certain trials that tested the effect of highly active antiretroviral therapy on patients with HIV. This treatment was more effective in the clinical trials then they were in hospitals. This is called the trial effect. This test was done later in the early 2000s. It did not show the same results as the perception of HIV changed and there was more evidence to prove that HIV is more treatable.

What it proves: This proves that the time of studies can change results, but the placebo effect still shows. The trial effect is an interesting situation as one may intuitively think that being given treatment in a hospital would be more effective than a treatment in a clinical trial. But still, the time of the study and the relevance is very important for the placebo effect to take place.

Is the Placebo Effect a Placebo?

The essential content of this article: This article focuses on how the placebo effect is just a placebo. The placebo needs multiple factors and varies in every situation. Nobody responds the same way to things, and this is also creates a more difficult way to prove the placebo effect.

What it proves: This article proves that placebo effects are difficult to prove. I do not believe what this article says besides that. There are some flaws and not enough evidence supporting their point. Placebos are very hard to prove, but there is a lot of evidence that points towards it.

The Placebo Effect and Marketing

The essential content of this article: This article focuses on how marketers and advertisers can alter their products and advertisements to appeal to consumers. When they change their products, they start this expectation so when they buy it, it is as good as the commercial or advertisement said. Social media has a huge effect on this as well.

What it proves: This article proves that commercials are very meticulously created so that people buy these things and enjoy them when they are consumed or used.

What I am still looking for…

I am still looking for a thesis statement that is coherent and effective. I like where I am going, but I need to shape and create a thesis that is provable and able to be written a lot about.

Current state of research…

I like all of my sources so far, but I am not 100% confident on my progress. I am having a hard time getting my thoughts together. I think with time and help, my confidence will go up.


2 thoughts on “White Paper – PaulaJean5”

  1. I’m so intrigued by your topic, PJ. I hope you’ll involve me in the research and planning process enough so I can feel like a contributor.

    —I’m confused about Stinking Thinking, PJ. Does it claim that the language I use can change my own perceptions or attitudes? Or does it claim that the language I use can change your perceptions and attitudes about you?

    —The “Weird Power” article is fascinating, but as your reader, I wouldn’t find its conclusions at all persuasive as you have phrased them. I recommend you follow the information back to the source for the effects identified in the article. Original research results will be much more convincing than “pop culture” claims made by a freelancer selling articles to Vox.com.

    [For example, here’s a link to the “overt vs covert” painkiller study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15488461 ]

    —Then, if you plan to cite the material on Dogs and the Placebo Effect, the author has done the work for you by providing the references to her own article:
    McMillan, Franklin D. “The placebo effect in animals.” J Am Vet Med Assoc 1999; 215, No. 7:992–999.
    McMillan, Franklin D. “Effects of human contact on animal health and well-being.” J Am Vet Med Assoc 1999; 215, No. 11:1592–1598.

    Read them for yourself to see if she’s accurately summarized the conclusions drawn by the original researchers. Plus, who knows what else you’ll learn by following the clues back to the source?

    —Here’s a link to the Full Text of Prema Menezes’s HIV/HAART “trial effect” study.

    —That Quora post answering the question: Is the Placebo Effect a Placebo? is mostly worthless, I’m afraid. I was hoping it would provide you a strong candidate for a Rebuttal Argument, but it’s just a poorly phrased opinion based on not much.

    PJ, I’d like to see you concentrate more narrowly on the most meaningful aspects of this question, which I believe are found in the original study by the ETS of SAT takers. The rest of your sources are interesting anecdotally, to reinforce the idea that we experience the placebo effect in many aspects of daily life (and so do our dogs!). But a few such examples go a long way, and they don’t actually enhance our understanding of just how deeply female test-takers, for example, can be influenced to bomb their tests by being reminded that they’re female.

    I did a quick Rowan database search for:
    [ “power of suggestion” undermine confidence ]
    And found a juicy-looking source from Tom Bartlett. The Full Text is available online (and Bartlett’s own References section would probably be a goldmine too), but Rowan won’t let me log in at the moment, so any further help will have to wait until I can get to the database sources.

    Is any of this useful to you so far, PJ?


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