Monday, August 31, 2009

The Placebo Effect: Claim It As Your Own

The laws of random distribution are not some theory; they are principles written in the same stone as the laws of physics. Actuaries, persons who calculate chances of things for a living, base your insurance premiums on the FACT that, when there is a hazard that could cause a disaster, the disaster actually happens only once in ten or eleven times. Risk management applies the same principle with an eye to preventing the disaster. This placebo effect is always there, reliably operating in the background.

Here is how the principle is applied. The risk manager of an airline knows that if the cargo door is compromised in flight, the vessel will crash if the hydraulic lines are damaged as a result of the door problem. Five incident reports of the door problem are on her desk. No hydraulic lines were hurt, and no crash has happened. The risk manager's call to action is to fix that door situation immediately on every airplane in the fleet every way that can be done. Why? Because only five or six incidents are left before a crash is due to happen. She knows the insurance carrier will be 'all over her' for not preventing the disaster in time, because that entity too operates on the laws of random distribution and its placebo principle; and those incident reports will be part of its investigation if there is a crash.

People are always saying "How could God let this happen?" when there's a catastrophe.* Well, nine or ten times, it didn't happen; and this is that next time. I propose the placebo effect is an underlying blessing built into earth events (I can't postulate for other locales, you know.) that, despite its hazards, only so much grief will actually happen here on our planet. ('God protects fools and drunks' might be a subdivision of this law.)

I further propose that you claim that underlying blessing specifically built into earth events - claim it individually for yourself as if it were there to be picked up and used, there for you to claim your share of it. Uh, it is: If you reasonably believe a certain behavior will fix the situation, and you do it, the situation will probably resolve itself.

Here is how the principle that believing something will fix it fixes it operates - three examples. The first is: Have you ever noticed that when you think of the perfect squelch or the perfect comeback to a repeating annoying situation, that situation never arises again? - that you don't get to apply your brilliant idea? This seems to be an unwritten law of the universe too. It too operates reliably: You solve the aggravating circumstance in your head, and it disappears from your everyday reality. Whether you had 'that look in your eye' that prevented the recurrence doesn't maatter: The principle operates.

The second example of 'If you reasonably believe a certain behavior will fix the situation, and you do it, the situation will probably resolve itself' is the fact that a percentage of people experience the benefit of pretend treatment in blind studies because of that pesky placebo effect. Sometimes the placeo effect benefit is stronger than the benefit of the testied real substance. Sometimes more people in the group get better without the medicine they think they are taking. (Hmmm, isn't that called faith?) My favorite instance of faith healing in the laboratory is the fact that many more women in the control group of a famous substance you paste on your scalp to grow hair did grow their hair than any others in all the test groups of that substance. The product is on the market now and is not recommended for dames.

The third example is that Janet, a restaurant owner, asked her psychic aabout her income; and each time over a period of some months, the psychic mentioned a recipe for lentil soup - a really good recipe. Her restaurant, she felt, was not the type to serve that. Janet took notes. She noticed the three mentions of the same recipe in those notes. She thought of the Bible story about the fellow whose sheep multiplied when he followed divine instructions . . . that did not work for other people's sheep. Maybe this was such an occasion, Janet postulated. She made the soup. It sold out quickly. And every time Janet made the soup, which was not on the menu and not advertised, she had about three times the customers and the soup sold out. She made it often, and it worked every time. Her restaurant was in an office building, and had elaborate smell barriers, so it wasn't the wafting of lentil perfum that drew the folks; it was word of mouth, it ws th placebo effect, and, yes, maybe it was my great recipe. But I did not remember telling her that recipe at all: It was she who put two and two together and came up with income. The kind of thing Janet experienced is a type of thing that happens all the time.

Are you thinking this does not make sense, how could it be? I thought so. Here is a reminder that reality often doesn't make sense; and that you can get mentally ill assuming it does and adjusting your thinking accordingly.

There are many examples of placebo miracles but no one has thought to harness the force, or even to recognize it as a force. (If someone wants to, I have a great and honest moneymaking idea along these lines!)

*Few people remember a gospel story in which people came to Jesus about a wall that had just fallen on people, killing them. "Were they the worst sinners in all Jerusalem?" "No," Jesus replied, "stuff just happens." Most religious people protest against this, "That's not in MY Bible."
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