Feeds

Can you become intoxicated by the power of suggestion?

Mind over matter

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Also in this week's column:

Can you become intoxicated by the power of suggestion?

Asked by Jeff Johnson of Sheffield, United Kingdom

Mind over matter goes a long way. Reports of intoxication occurring merely through the power of suggestion and not through alcohol ingestion appear from time to time.

An early example of this is a 19th century incident in the US state of Maine. A logging camp was stocked with bottles of vanilla extract containing alcohol. Workers at the camp would occasionally break into the camp's stores, drink the vanilla extract, and become intoxicated.

Eventually, the logging camp managers changed to stocking bottles of vanilla extract not containing alcohol. The workers still occasionally broke into the stores, still drank the vanilla extract, and still got intoxicated - without alcohol!

Mind over matter can happen with non-alcoholic drinks too. "What you think may be as important as what you drink." This is according to Dr Andrew Scholey, a professor of psychopharmacology at the University of Northumbria in Newcastle in the UK.

Scholey reported to the British Psychological Society in 2000 on his study of the psychological effects upon drinkers of caffeinated and decaffeinate coffee. As everyone is told, caffeinated coffee (CC) makes you stay awake and keeps you more alert. Decaffeinated coffee (DC) supposedly does not.

Scholey and research colleagues conducted a simple experiment. They informed each subject in the experiment, all of whom were coffee drinkers, that each would be assigned to one of two groups (A or B). They informed subjects that those in A would be given CC, those in B would be given DC, each subject would then take a computerised test, and each subject would be told which group they were in (and what they were given).

In reality, without being informed, all subjects were divided into four groups (A1, A2, B1, B2). Those in A1 were told they were getting CC and were given CC. Those in A2 were told they were getting CC but were given DC. Those in B1 were told they were getting DC and were given DC. Those in B2 were told they were getting DC and were given CC.

The researchers found that, as predicted, subjects who drank CC were faster and more accurate on a computerized test - but only if they thought they had been given CC. Subjects who drank CC but thought it was DC performed less well.

Most interesting of all, subjects who thought they had drunk CC, but in reality had drunk DC, performed on the tests as if they had really had drunk CC. Thus, what you think is real can be more important than what is real. Mind over matter goes a long way.

Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.