My opinion: While I believe this invention may provide some emotional support for patients, I do not think it is effective at solving major chemical imbalances. Frankly, I'm not sure if this app should even be called a "placebo effect." In general, patients may view the placebo effect negatively and not take the activity very seriously, rendering it useless. However, perhaps it can leave the pill in, as many interpret the pill to have healing powers, even though it isn't real. I think this program is more like a social therapy - it basically encourages the user to look at his or her life in a more positive manner. Again, though this may work for the occasional blues, this can't fix clinical depression, and I hope its users don't believe that it will. Should there be some kind of disclaimer at the beginning to prevent this? Anything else that would improve the app? Feel free to comment.
Traditionally, researchers have thought of "placebo effects" as something phony. Placebos are drug study controls, not the real treatment. And, the idea of sugar pills as effective medicine was almost an affront to science.
Recently, though, attitudes have changed. Amid evidence that placebo effects are strengthening, researchers have started looking at the phenomenon as something more positive. They’ve shown the experience can produce physiological effects, and can even be beneficial when patients know what’s going on.
Daniel Jacobs also wants to use placebos for good. His new app, which he’s crowd-funding on Indiegogo, is an attempt to take the placebo out of the doctor’s office and into your home. He hopes it will make people feel better, and contribute further to placebo research.
You start by setting a goal: say, more joy or love in your life. Then, you choose someone to give you the placebo (maybe a friend or family member), what you want it to be (a pill, say), and where you want to take it (maybe a forest where you go running with a friend). You then "take" the placebo whenever you want to, following a pre-set ritual built into the app.
The point is to replicate what’s important about the placebo effect, which isn’t the pill itself, but the experience.