Just finished reading Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational, which talks about making better decisions and the mistakes we make without realizing. It’s on the field of behavioral economics and I love this stuff. The placebo effect in particular got me thinking.
Dan talks about surgeries that weren’t performed, yet the patients felt no pain as they were told they had surgery done. Simply being told by a doctor that something was fixed and thus they didn’t feel any pain! THIS IS NUTS. This reminded me of the book Born To Run, that discusses everything doesn’t need to be fixed. New running shoes don’t make you better at running. But they do an excellent job in making you feel like it will!
Obviously this whole placebo effect is quite effective in marketing products. For example, when you pick up Vitamin Water, you may read the label because it describes all the effects of the vitamins and minerals in such a manner that you just can’t wait to quench your thirst! You’ve just convinced yourself that its gonna make you feel like super man. See I love that! I want to believe it will make me super healthy!
But the same thing doesn’t sit well with me when similar marketing is used for the sham that is bottled water. Watch the Story of Bottled Water by Annie Leonard to know why. Lots of people in Canada believe bottled water is better for you, more healthy, sadly in a country that has the best tap water in the world. Dan Ariely mentions there is ” blurry boundary between beliefs and reality.” This is the moral dilemma of placebos. Marketers want to create perceived value, but should be wary of stretching the truth or outright lying. Not sure who makes the decisions of what crosses the line.
Highly recommend this book if your curious to learn more about human behaviour.