Er flitsen enkele woorden razendsnel voorbij op het scherm. De kijkers zagen het nauwelijks, maar krijgen te horen dat het de juiste antwoorden waren op de vragen die ze zullen moeten beantwoorden. Het is een placebo-effect, maar… volgens psycholgen Ulrich Weger en Stephen Loughnan werkt het wel zoals ze schrijven in een nieuwe studie gepubliceerdQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology:
Their experiment featured 40 undergraduates, each of whom took a 20-question general-knowledge text. Questions ranged from the numerical value of pi to the artist who created Guernica; participants were given four possible answers and instructed to pick the correct one.
Before doing so, half the students were told that just before each question was asked, the correct answer was momentarily flashed onto the screen. They were informed that this happened too quickly for them to process the information consciously, but assured that it would register in their brains.
A “demonstration” showed them the process in slow motion, reinforcing their belief that this was really happening. In fact, the researchers write, “the subliminally presented answers of this experimental phase were random letter strings.”
No matter: “Participants in the placebo condition who believed they had been exposed to the correct answers subliminally scored higher than participants in the control condition,” Weger and Loughnan write. (bron)
Abstract van het onderzoek:
People have significant psychological resources to improve their well-being and performance, but these resources often go unused and could be better harnessed. In the medical domain, it is well established that these resources can be mobilized under certain conditions, for example in the context of the placebo effect. Here we explored whether the placebo principle can be used to enhance cognitive performance. To do so, we employed a modified placebo induction—a bogus priming method that we told participants would unconsciously enhance their knowledge and that they should hence trust their skills in an upcoming knowledge test. Participant performance was indeed enhanced, compared to a group that did not think the priming process would improve their knowledge. The study documents the relevance of the placebo effect outside the medical and therapeutic setting.