Feeds

Can you become intoxicated by the power of suggestion?

Mind over matter

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
Asteroid's SHOCK DINO MURDER SPREE just bad luck - boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.