Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Placebo Effect

We spent a day talking about Pain---what causes it, what it is for, pain management strategies, etc---and along with that we discussed the placebo effect.

Early on in the lesson I told the children how it had been proven that chocolate contained chemicals that increased people's ability to jump high. (I made it sound more convincing than that. :)) I said that there was a small, but measurable, effect that could be observed even right after eating chocolate. Then I said we would test it ourselves. I told the children to jump up as high as they could and touch the highest place they could reach on the wall. We marked their highest touches with tape. Then I gave them each a chocolate kiss to eat. Afterwards, I measured their jumps again---and every one of them was able to jump higher than the first time!

Then I told them they had just seen the placebo effect in action. Chocolate doesn't have any jump-improving properties (sad groans from the children) but the mind DOES have power over the body! Fascinating! We also watched this video (warning: there are two swear words in this video, but one is about 5 seconds in and the other is about 5 seconds before the end, so they are easily avoided) about the placebo effect.

Here is an interesting article we read about the placebo effect
We also took this opportunity to discuss "pseudoscience" and how to be on the lookout for it. Funny article here.

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