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Placebo Power

The phrase “mind-body connection” has many connotations. For some, it’s shorthand for New Age quackery. For others, it’s a source of hope and a way to reconcile their spiritual life with modern science…

Increasingly, placebo effects are being viewed as real and tangible, if mysterious. In various surveys, 45 percent to 85 percent of American and European practitioners say they have used placebos in clinical practice, and 96 percent of academic physicians in the United States say they think placebos have therapeutic effects…

One common effect involves the assumption that a particular pill is responsible for easing pain or discomfort that is actually subsiding naturally. Another is classic Pavlovian conditioning, in which a patient is so accustomed to feeling better after a shot that it works no matter what is in it. Another is the relief a patient like Dr. Wager’s mother feels when a doctor offers a concrete solution.

Full story at the New York Times