Everyday Placebos

Dutch company, The Gift Label, have produced a range of soap and lotions, with labels on featuring phrases such as ‘You Look Damn Good’. Is this just cute marketing, or could there be something more to it?I don’t know if you remember Dove’s great viral marketing campaign, about beauty patches? Women were given patches to wear, and they were told that they would make them more beautiful. The women record video diaries, to let the researchers know how their self-image is changing, then at the end, it’s revealed to all of them, that the patches are placebos and that they’ve always been as beautiful with the patches as without.

It’s unlikely that the placebo patches, caused any physical changes to the women to make them more beautiful, but it is possible that they may have caused more ‘feel-good’ chemicals to be released in the brain, causing them to have a more positive outlook. Some of the strongest placebo effects are observed in the treatment of mental health problems, but perhaps we could all do, with having improving our own self-image and perhaps placebos could help us achieve that.

To return again to the positive hand soap from The Gift Label, writing a label with such an overt positive message is mildly pleasing. It’s the sort of thing that would make you smile the first time you saw it, and then after a while, it would blend into the background of every day life. But what if people genuinely believed that this could make them feel better, not just give them a compliment? Studies have found that when the placebo effect is explained to people, they can respond to open-label placebos. So maybe it’s time to consider how we could support our own mental and physical health through every-day placebos – even it it just made us feel a little better about life, it could be worth it.

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