PSYC 180 Chapter Notes -Gorilla Suit, Optical Illusion, Change Blindness

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8 May 2012
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Anomalous Cognition
Science thrives on a skeptical approach, and scientists are typically conservative in what they consider a
“generally accepted view”
Two errors: nonexistent phenomena may pass as real or generally accepted; real phenomena, which
should be generally accepted, may pass as nonexistent
Experimental results that do not replicate, effects that are very small and tenuous, flaws of design and
methodology, insufficient sample size, inadequate statistical analyses, and lack of a theoretical basis
may all contribute to weak evidence
Statistical analysis is independent of the quality of the unprocessed information
Meta-analytical studies are retrospective, and confound exploratory with confirmatory investigation
Experimenter’s beliefs may introduce a substantive bias to the interpretation of data and sometimes even
to more nuanced aspects
Psi effects are not amenable to standard scientific scrutiny because the alleged effects, when they do
occur, typically disappear soon after the initial experiment, thereby preventing replication
“decline effect” – the tendency of psi phenomena to wane over time, sometimes reaching chance levels
“experimenter effect” – a difference in participants’ performance as a function of the individual who is
administering the experiment
Karl Popper a theory is scientific if it permits the possibility of being shown false (falsifiability
criterion)
Members of the scientific community should be amenable to the possibility of novel phenomena. At the
same time, proponents of new claims should provide compelling proof, and everyone should be
sufficiently critical to dismiss claims that have already been found specious
Asthma as a Model for Placebo Effects in Modern Medicine
Placebo effect diverse set of changes that accompany each individual treatment and disease
Placebo group comprises almost 100% of the drug effect in the antidepressant treatment for mild-to-
moderate depression, but almost none in treating strep throat
RCT “placebo response” encompasses the full change in the group receiving the inert pill, “placebo
effect” refers to the difference between the placebo response and the no-treatment group
Objective Measures of Placebo Effects
Sham bronchodilator and acupuncture conferred no measurable benefit over no-treatment, but were
indistinguishable from active bronchodilator according to subjective reports
Inert substances enable robust and objective immunosuppression and immunostimulation
Stress can, depending on duration and intensity, both enhance and depress immune function
Administering saline while suggesting that it was a bronchoconstrictor could elicit bronchoconstriction.
Conversely, pairing saline with the suggestion that it was actually a bronchodilator reverse the initial
bronchoconstricting effect
FEV measurements indicated that placebo bronchodilators suppressed airway response to subsequent
methacholine administration
Future Directions
Because the processes of informed consent diminish patient expectation for “active treatment” the RCT
design should display the weakest placebo effects in medicine
Youth is emerging as a potential factor associated with susceptibility to suggestion (children who suffer
from migraine headaches also experience greater placebo effects than adults)
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Foxes in Boxes
Suggestion can exert dramatic effects on the body
Language is the primary vehicle of suggestion, which in turn, catalyzes both conscious and unconscious
cognition, ultimately translating into altered perception and behaviour
What distinguishes human from animal is our ability to conceive and convey abstract thought through
language
When chemical events and bodily sensations affect our thoughts = “bottom-up” (physical dehydration
generates thirst perception which motivates drinking behaviour)
When cognition shapes our corporeal reality = “top-down” processing (highly variable and difficult to
identify and measure, their therapeutic potential has been marginalized)
To be considered legitimate, an agent must conform to scientific standards
Carefully crafted words administered during hypnosis can over-ride our knowledge of ourselves and our
surroundings
Suggestion has also been shown to induce food aversions
Culture acts a powerful medium of suggestion, influencing the presentation of psychopathology
The apparent gap between theory and practice is fuelled by a lack of consensus on how to define a
placebo effect
Blue pills (depressant), red (stimulant)
Brand name labels bolster treatment outcomes, while discounted prices can diminish the effectiveness of
energy drinks
Invasiveness of the method may yield the highest benefit
Placebo effect = no-treatment group placebo response
Expectation is also a major determinant of placebo responsiveness
Open administration of an inert substance paired with the suggestion that enlists a powerful top-down
process may be employed in certain instances to effect healing
Active Albuterol or Placebo
There were no significant differences between the three inactive interventions
Albuterol exhibited the highest improvement rates
Difference in drug effect between the albuterol inhaler and the placebo inhaler, was significant
The placebo effects did not differ significantly between the two placebo interventions and the control
Patients assigned to the active substance had a much larger response rate than with the placebo remedies
Substantial improvement with active and placebo substances control group had less
Subjective drug effect between active and placebo inhaler was not significant
Subjective effects between placebo and control group was large
Physiological outcome = medication effect but no placebo effect
Subjective outcome = placebo effects were equivalent to the drug effect
Placebo interventions had a strong effect on subjective outcome, but none on objective; the reverse is
true for the active drug
Apparent equivalence of placebos may be because the patients may have become conditioned to the
setting and personnel at a well-known hospital as much as to the inhaler itself
High credibility of sham acupuncture might have resulted in a greater expectation of improvement with
sham acupuncture
A systematic review of systematic review of homeopathy
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