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To see is to believe... but do we also believe what we hope to see? 

You've just had major surgery. It's painful, and the common procedure is to provide morphine as pain relief.

Here's the thing. Does it matter how the morphine is injected to you, if the morphine is exactly the same type and of the same amount? 


Image from  Dr. Alia Crum | TEDxTraverseCity

Fabrizio Benedetti et al aimed to find out. They divided patients who underwent the same surgery into 2 groups:

  1. Group 1 had the morphine physically injected into while the patient was awake and watching

  2. Group 2 had the morphine released into patients through their IV drip, through a computer. 

Does it make a difference? You bet! Patients were asked to rate the level of pain on a 0-10 scale. If you look at the graph above, patients who saw the physical injection of morphine from a nurse felt greater pain reduction, even though the morphine was exactly the same

placebo same drug whether you know it or

Image from  Dr. Alia Crum | TEDxTraverseCity

Benedetti and team tried out the same process for treatment in other areas, Anxiety, Parkinson's, and Hypertension. This time, they didn't gauge based just a rating by the patient. They looked at actual recovery rates. As the graph above shows, the results are even more pronounced. In cases, like Parkinson's when the patient doesn't physically see the medication being administered to them, it has no significant effect.

Even though the objective reality is the same - same dose of the same morphine, subjective reality is different - seeing something for yourself makes a difference. 


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