Placebo Buttons: Why the ‘Close Door’ Elevator Button Doesn’t Work

Have you ever heard of the “placebo effect?”

The placebo effect is the invisible backbone of many industries, and not just the lucrative pharmaceutical industry.

A race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine has begun in earnest. Yet no anti-COVID-19 medication can be approved unless it’s proven to be more effective than a placebo — a fake pill that does nothing.

That’s because if a person is given a pill by a doctor, even if it is secretly made of an inert substance like sugar, and told it will cure a medical problem, the power of belief alone can make them feel better.

Clinical trials of new medications thus consist of some groups being given the actual drug and placebo groups being given inert substances. Scientists then evaluate which group reacts the most effectively to the new medication.

Like the placebo effect in medical trials, “placebo buttons” are psychological drivers in many aspects of daily life. Like medical test subjects, we simply aren’t aware of it.

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