The placebo effect and the nocebo effect demonstrate that our minds have a special kind of control over our bodies. They also might have control over the world. And that's something to be worried about.

The placebo effect is so widespread that any study done on a new medication has to account for it. People taking a useless sugar pill will report improvements in their condition. They'll do this so much more dramatically and consistently than the baseline chance recovery rate that companies need to make sure that their expensive medication isn't just as ineffective as a sugar pill. The flip side is the nocebo effect. A belief that they are likely to experience some adverse effect will make people much more likely to experience that effect. If a group of women believe they are prone to heart disease (but aren't), they are much more likely to die of heart disease than a group that doesn't share that unfortunate belief.


Jennifer Jacquet, an assistant professor of environmental studies at NYU, believes that these effects might extend beyond the body. She has coined the term "anthropocebo effect." Humans who believe that humankind is incapable of doing anything but wrecking the planet are, in some ways, bringing the destruction of the planet about. We can't make the effort to conserve we don't believe do any good. We can't push for reforms we believe won't work. We can't look for solutions we believe don't exist. And if environmental destruction is inevitable, we might as well cash in. Those who believe that humans will simply destroy everything, and there's nothing that can be done to stop it, might bring about their own predictions of doom.

What do you think?

[Via Edge, What Should We Be Worried About?]