A classic placebo story from the world of sport today.
Clearly on the cusp of taking over our school playgrounds is the rubber band with a hologram which sports stars are claiming increases their balance strength and agility. Something to do with optimising the body’s natural energy flow.
This doesn’t sound particularly plausible. But just in case, a I consulted a friendly biologist, who said: “There is no currently conceivable way that such a bracelet would have a direct physiological impact; consequently, any actual effects would have to be psychological and self-perpetuating – the placebo effect in other words.”
Just what I was about to say myself.
How do we (I’m generously assuming here that Ronaldo & co. aren’t the only ones falling into the trap) manage to convince ourselves that wearing a glorified item of office stationary on your wrist could actually make you better at sport? And how can Power Balance get away with charging £29.99 when you can get a whole ball of rubber bands from WH Smith for £5.99?
If you think it will make you better, you probably will feel better. But it won’t necessarily be because of the rubber band. That in essence is the placebo effect – and it’s been very widely documented.
But why £29.99? Well, partly because they can, because people don’t see it as a substitute for the lowly standard office rubber band (particularly now that it has the advantage of celebrity endorsement).
But there is another reason for pricing high – because a high price is likely to enhance the placebo effect (for an example, see “Placebo effects of marketing actions”). It convinces people that it’s likely to work, and therefore it does.
After all, if you’re paying that much for it, it’s got to be good, right?