In the early first century a.t., doctors and scientists began to notice that in some medical trials, patients given an inert control substance, or told they were receiving surgery or psychotherapy without actually doing so, improved anyway. That is, medical improvement was seen by simply telling people that they were being treated. Investigation seemed to show that this effect was due to the mind exerting more influence over the body than had been thought. However, only about one third of patients were susceptible to the placebo effect, it seems to exhibit side effects, and its apparently psychological nature limited study on it.
However, as time went by and understanding of the human mind increased, it became clear that the placebo effect was a real effect, and that the mind does have some control over the body beyond that previously thought. Further research showed how this effect might be effectively harnessed to provide what is, effectively, self-treatment for anyone. Though pharmaceutical companies everywhere opposed this, the effect, which became known as the hyper-placebo effect, spread and, in many cases, removed the need for pharmaceuticals at all.
Between then and the present day, the hyper-placebo effect has been used across Terragens space, in most biological clades. In some cases populations have been genetically engineered to make the effect even more effective by modifications of links between the brain and the body. In others a modified form of neuro-fractal pattern has been used so that, in public areas, people are constantly bombarded with health-inducing images working via the hyper-placebo effect. In yet others a form of memetic technology manages the health of the population via the hyper-placebo effect. In a very few places populations, particularly of Hiders, have modified themselves so that the hyper-placebo effect cannot work on them.
Of course, the reverse of the placebo effect, the nocebo effect, where what is effectively a form of suggestion causes a negative effect on the subject (which some believe is the basis of voodoo), has also been investigated and developed into the hyper-nocebo effect. Unlike neuro-fractal patterns, which have an essentially instant effect, the hyper-nocebo effect is more like an insidious poison, disease, or loss of morale acting among those it is targeted on, delivered to the target group by various subliminal means.
Text by Tony Jones
Initially published on 28 August 2003.
Design notes - see also http://skepdic.com/placebo.html and http://skepdic.com/nocebo.html for more on this.