How Powerful is the Placebo Effect?

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Updated on May 01, 2013

For many years researchers have observed that many patients will experience an improvement in health while taking a placebo, or fake drug, if they believe they are receiving an active medicine. This phenomenon, called the placebo effect, shows the power the mind can have over the body. In this experiment you will look for the placebo effect, and evaluate whether certain groups of people are more likely to experience this curiosity.


Test the placebo effect in different groups of people.


  • Bowl that is big enough to fully submerge a hand
  • Ice water
  • A stop watch
  • An object to be used as your “placebo” Example: Use a bracelet with glass beads. Tell participants that the beads are composed of a mineral that has been shown to help with pain relief.


  1. Fill a bowl with ice water.
  2. Start your stopwatch when the test subject puts his or her hand in the bowl of ice water.
  3. Record how long the subject is able to keep his or her hand in the bowl of ice water.
  4. Wait 5-10 minutes.
  5. Ask the participant to wear the item (placebo) that you chose. Tell him or her that this item has been shown to help with pain relief. Be as convincing as possible.
  6. Repeat the ice water test.
  7. Repeat all of the steps for many different subjects. Include men and women in several different age groups.
Megan Doyle is a scientist, researcher, and writer based in Dallas, Texas. She received her Ph.D. after completing years of work in a laboratory and now focuses on writing about recent advances in the field of oncology. Always passionate about learning, Megan enjoys keeping up to date on breakthroughs in all fields of science.

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