from the Annals of Improbable Research

The Relative Price of Nothing

“Commercial Features of Placebo and Therapeutic Efficacy,” Rebecca L. Waber, Baba Shiv, Ziv Carmon and Dan Ariely, Journal of the American Medical Association, vol. 299, March 5, 2008, pp. 1016–7. (Thanks to Mark Dionne for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, who variously are at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Duke University, and INSEAD (Singapore), report:

we studied the effect of price on analgesic response to placebo pills…. After randomization, half of the participants were informed that the drug had a regular price of $2.50 per pill and half that the price had been discounted to $0.10 per pill (no reason for the discount was mentioned). All participants received identical placebo pills… pain reduction was greater for the regular-price pill.”

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The Annals of Improbable Research