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The Placebo Effect Shows That the Mind Is Real


The placebo effect — one of the best attested effects in medicine — just means that you will get better if you think you will. That, of course, is a forbidden concept because it means that immaterial things like ideas — or souls — are real. Which makes sense when you consider a recent finding, that the placebo effect works even when patients know it’s a fake, as in the case of open label placebos (OLPs):

OLPs have become a source of fascination, and some consternation, in the medical community in recent years. They seem to work in some cases, but no one can explain why. A 2021 paper in Scientific Reports found that “OLPs appear to be a promising treatment in different conditions,” including menopausal hot flashes, seasonal allergies, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and major depression. Then again, a 2023 paper in the same journal concluded that “the overall quality of the evidence was rated low to very low.” As researchers work out what exactly OLPs are—silver bullets, codswallop, or something in between—it’s worth examining what their increasing appearance in research labs says about contemporary life. In a deepfake world where AIs masquerade as people, where marketing calls itself wellness, where politicians tell lies so brazen as to be self-debunking, and where you can be red-pilled, blue-pilled, black-pilled, and clear-pilled without ever being sure you’re seeing reality, there’s perhaps nothing so refreshing as a tiny step in the opposite direction: prescribing a pill of nothing and calling it out as such.

Tom Vanderbilt, “You Know It’s a Placebo. So Why Does It Still Work,” Wired, December 19, 2023

It may be getting stronger as researchers manipulate it more effectively.

It makes so much sense if we consider that most people need to know that other people care if they get better or not. But what does that do for materialism?

See also: Yes, the placebo effect is real, not a trick. But the fact that the mind acts on the body troubles materialists. Such facts, they say, require revision.

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The Placebo Effect Shows That the Mind Is Real