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Caffeine and The Placebo Effect

based on 8 ratings
Author: Melissa Bautista

Plants produce caffeine as a protective pesticide, paralyzing feeding insects. This powerful substance has been used as a stimulant for centuries. The use of caffeine as an energy booster dates back to the Stone Age through coffee, tea and cocoa. Synonymous with caffeine, coffee has grown into a $70 billion industry with no signs of slowing down. It's a good source of antioxidants, a social atmosphere, and a legal stimulant. Coffee drinkers come back for more because of its ability to increase alertness, focus, and stamina. It is no wonder why this drug is one of the world's most popular drugs.

Although the use of coffee for ergogenic purposes is socially accepted, it is addictive. When consumed on a daily basis, the body develops a tolerance. With this addiction comes withdrawal syndrome: Coffee drinkers have reported headaches, irritability, anxiety, fatigue and decreased concentration after missing their daily dose. However, the effects of caffeine may be a result of the expectations of the user rather than the drug itself (Harrell & Juliano, 2009). In this study we will examine caffeine's placebo effect.

Problem:

Do the expected effects of caffeine impact a person's physical response to coffee?

Materials:

  • Coffee, both caffeinated and decaffeinated
  • Plain paper cups
  • Computers with internet access

Procedure:

  1. Recruit your subjects: Find 20 participants, 10 should be regular coffee drinkers who drink at least 1 cup a day. The other 10 participants should not consume caffeinated beverages, including sodas and coffee, on a regular basis.
  2. Assess their physical and mental states: You should perform this task before any of the 10 coffee drinkers have their first cup of coffee for the day. Record each subject's score for each test. You can use these sites to test for concentration and accuracy: http://www.brainmetrix.com/concentration.htmhttp://www.typingtest.com/\
  3. For both groups have each subject make a list of:
    • Their expectations of caffeine.
    • What will caffeine do to you physically/mentally?
    • What are the side effects of caffeine withdrawal?
  4. Distribute the coffee: Use caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee. Make sure they are the same brand and flavor. Pour 10 cups of the caffeinated coffee into plain paper cups. For the decaffeinated coffee place a small mark on the bottom of the cup so you know it is decaffeinated. Pour 10 cups of decaf into your marked cups. Set the coffee out on a table, mixing the two groups. Have each subject choose a cup.
  5. Allow the subjects ample time to drink the coffee (10-30 minutes). While they are doing this they can be reading, surfing the internet, doing homework, etc.
  6. Once they are done have them return the cup to you and write their name on the cup. Have them wait 20 minutes.
  7. After 20 minutes, administer the concentration, speed and accuracy tests again. Record each subject's score for each test.
  8. After taking the tests have them write down how they feel physically and mentally while they were taking the 2nd round of tests.
  9. For each subject compare their initial expectations with their reported conditions. Do they differ? Are they the same?
  10. Record the samples each subject drank using the cups.
  11. How do these results compare to the results of step 9?
  12. Compare the test scores between 1st and 2nd rounds for each subject.
  13. Organize your data into a chart and graph.

 

Speed & Accuracy Scores (wpm)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caffeine Group

Pre-Caffeine

Post-Caffeine

Change in Score

A

45

49

4

B

53

58

5

C

36

41

5

D

46

40

-6

E

42

41

-1

F

50

59

9

G

40

50

10

Average

44.57

48.29

3.71

 

 

 

 

Placebo Group

Pre-Caffeine

Post-Caffeine

Change in Score

A

55

53

-2

B

35

36

1

C

52

50

-2

D

45

47

2

E

47

49

2

F

39

46

7

G

48

42

-6

Average

45.86

46.14

0.29

 

 

 

 

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