Sunday, October 05, 2008

Can A Product Work Just Because It's Expensive?

"brands can not only reflect who we are but also affect how we behave." That comes from today's "consumed" column in the New York Times titled Subconscious Warm-Up. It discusses whether or not wearing an expensive warmup parka like the one Michael Phelps wears will make you swim faster.

This reminds me of research done by economist Dan Ariely. He recently won an "Ig Nobel" prize for "demonstrating that expensive fake medicine is more effective than cheap fake medicine." That is from 2008 Ig Nobel Prizes honor research on stripper fertility and Coca-Cola as spermicide. Here is more on Ariely's research from "Solved: scientific riddles of flea hops, armadillo digs and lap dancers' tips:

"The Ig Nobel prize for medicine was awarded to Dan Ariely at Duke University in North Carolina for a landmark study proving that costly placebos are more effective than cheap ones. Ariely's team told volunteers they were being given a new kind of painkiller, with some receiving an expensive one and others a much cheaper version.

Even though all of them received the same sugar pills, those who thought their pills were more expensive reported less pain when they were given small electric shocks.

"This is the proudest day of my life," said Ariely. "The Ig Nobels are humorous, but the work often examines things in real life, like why buttered toast is more likely to land face down."

Ariely said his work has serious implications for the medical industry, because many patients are told they can only have cheaper drugs, or have inexpensive-looking medication, which could undermine how effective the drugs are. While the active ingredients of the drug will help treat symptoms, often they work in tandem with the placebo effect, which triggers the body's own healing mechanisms."


Cliff Perez said...

I actually read this in the paper last week and had a good laugh. I guess this means people will be exchanging their current contraceptives for Coca-Cola. This placebo effect is part of the reason why I don't go see the doctor when I'm sick (not terminally). Most people go to the doctor for peace of mind when they have a cold. The turnover time of getting better is not necessarily effected just because you went to see the doctor. Sometimes you can get better in the same amount of time without the visit and prescriptions. The moral of the story is that Coca-Cola has found another use other than it's contribution to diabetes and obesity.

Cyril Morong said...

Right. Besides, when I get sick I just put on my simming parka and I feel all better.

My academic experiments said...

In this blog I expose something similar, though my idea is less brilliant than Dan Ariely's approaches. The Spanish university is very bad, I am sorry.