The placebo effect does not require deception — for real

Researchers have found that the placebo effect does not require blindness, tricking the test subjects. Tell people they are getting a sugar pill and it still works.

No, this is not a joke. Years of research. They theorize that the theater surrounding the doctor visit, with the white coat and all, somehow makes the sugar pill work.

Could be important for audio as well. I have been working on setting up a test where I duct tape a femtoclock, or a matchbox, to the outside of a MicroRendu and do comparisons with a plain MicroRendu. But with this result, I could use regular transparent tape and tell people “this change doesn’t do anything” and it might still work. With sufficient theater surrounding it. (This was a joke.)

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So what you’re saying is that, if I get some of those doohickeys with arrows on them which you clamp to the outside of your cables, to tell the electrons inside the cable wires which way to travel, that those will, or might, improve my SQ, even though I don’t believe they can possibly do anything?

Seems to me that Kaptchuk’s study is depending on the idea of “beeing seen”; that is, those who respond have been seen by a physician and paid attention to and given something that isn’t medically significant and that very fact relieves some of the anxiety in their mind, anxiety which almost certainly contributes to their symptoms. “That’s a load off,” we say.

I’m not convinced that audio placebos like electron directors or hi-fi fuses would work the same way. I’d be so upset about falling for an obvious scam that my perceived SQ would probably decrease. But maybe if I didn’t understand that they were scams? “Ignorance is bliss”, is another saying. Folk wisdom. More likely I’d have to be anxious about SQ in the first place, worried that I was missing something. Then that anxiety would be something that could be relieved.

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Maybe it would work better if you walk into a high-end store and buy the doohickeys for a high price and they come in very expensive packaging, instead of getting a plain brown wrapper from the internet?

Nobody really knows how it works.

But if it is a known placebo effect, that justifies the vendors not publishing any measurements…

Exactly. Try to replicate the “I’ve been listened to and prescribed for by someone who knows more about this than I do” effect.

Though I think it will still require some underlying anxiety that can be relieved by such an encounter.

I wiped the dust off the top of my NUC yesterday. The improvement in clarity and overall shinyness was a revalation. Of course I didn’t use an ordinary duster, that would be silly. I used a microfibre duster for optimal effect. Try it, you won’t be disappointed.

Remember the significant SQ improvement when coloring the shiny edge of a CD with a black marker? Or the colorful round stickers strategically placed on the front of a speaker?

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It’s not even a new finding I’m afraid…

Park LC, Covi L. Nonblind placebo trial: an exploration of neurotic patients’ responses to placebo when its inert content is disclosed. Arch Gen Psych (April1965); 12:36-45

Which more or less says ‘we told them it was a sugar pill; they improved anyway’.

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I think that this was known before any of the studies were done. (Not that we shouldn’t confirm things with studies,)

People believe what they want to believe. It’s even codified in our language— “I can’t believe he’s never coming back.” Hucksters know this, and prey on those most easily influenced
Insecure? Want to confirm your
to yourself and others? This product will show you and the world that you possess these qualities, that you are part of the cognoscenti, and the best part is only you and I know about this magic—nobody can prove it isn’t true, and anyone who tries is obviously not one of us.

Could be pills, could be audio cables, could be straight magic.
I’ve seen “hypnotism” acts where the subjects clearly believed that they were naked—but they were never the doubters in the audience. Always the me-too wannabe-part-of-the-magic types who come gushing and giggling to the stage. (I’m not trying to suggest that “believers” are weak-minded, just that the skeptical are far more likely to require some sort of proof than folks with less rigorous standard of belief.)

The Nocebo Effect is a real thing, too. It’s really just down to what people believe, regardless of objective truth.

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