Friday, January 13, 2012

Performance Bracelets

While looking for a different article on the Placebo Effect, I found this interesting video.  As you know, the Placebo Effect causes people to recover or show improvement even when they are given only a fake remedy, the familiar sugar pill.  The power of the mind is amazing.  I recall an article a number of years ago stating that the improvement within the control groups in certain drug studies increased as the power of the real medicines increased.  They were getting the sugar pill but believed they were getting even stronger medicine, so had even better results – all psychological.  You can understand how this could play into the hands of "snake oil" salesmen.  They sell you a useless cure and let your mind do the rest.  They get a few believers who help them sell more.  That's why I always say, "Endorsements are not evidence."

Here is the  CBS News video testing the claims of a particular performance wristband, one endorsed by famous athletes, and touted to improve athletic performance.  When people were given the advertised wristband, performance on physical and balance tests did improve.  But when people were given a one-dollar replacement band and told it was special, performance on physical and balance tests improved comparably.  The video also explains how the bracelet company sets up tests to ensure the perception of  improvement.

The scariest part is the ending where, despite the fact that the $30-wristband claims have been debunked, shown to be no more effective than the $1 bands or in fact nothing at all, the participants still wanted one.  This is not critical thinking!  This is the kind of decision-making that leads people to spend money on worthless items instead of using it wisely, and then they wonder why they can't afford to retire.  It's the kind of thinking that leads us to vote for candidates based on endorsements or personal appearance or charisma instead of the leadership and ideas we need.  It's the kind of thinking that contributes to the decline of America!

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