The role of positive information provision in open-label placebo effects by Kirsten Barnes

Open label placebos (OLPs) appear generally efficacious among clinical samples, but the empirical evidence regarding their use in non-clinical and sub-clinical samples, as well as when administered independent of a convincing rationale, is mixed. Healthy participants (N = 102) were randomised to either a 6-day course of OLP pills with information provision (OLP-plus: N = 35), without information provision (OLP-only: N = 35), or no-treatment control group (N = 32). OLP pills were described as…

Appl Psychol Health Well Being. 2023 Mar 18. doi: 10.1111/aphw.12444. Online ahead of print.

ABSTRACT

Open label placebos (OLPs) appear generally efficacious among clinical samples, but the empirical evidence regarding their use in non-clinical and sub-clinical samples, as well as when administered independent of a convincing rationale, is mixed. Healthy participants (N = 102) were randomised to either a 6-day course of OLP pills with information provision (OLP-plus: N = 35), without information provision (OLP-only: N = 35), or no-treatment control group (N = 32). OLP pills were described as enhancing physical (symptoms and sleep) and psychological (positive and negative emotional) well-being. Well-being was assessed at baseline and on Day 6. Expectancies and adherence were measured. OLP administration interacted with baseline well-being. The OLP-plus group demonstrated increased well-being on all outcomes other than positive emotions, but only when they reported decreased baseline well-being. OLP-only and control groups did not differ. The OLP-plus group demonstrated elevated expectancies, that mediated the OLP effect on physical symptoms relative to control, but only when well-being was lower than average at baseline (i.e. moderated-mediation). Results demonstrate the importance of information provided with OLPs. The moderating effect of baseline outcomes may reconcile inconsistent results regarding clinical and non-clinical samples. Accounting for baseline symptoms in non-clinical and sub-clinical samples is likely to enhance our understanding of when OLPs are effective.

PMID:36932997 | DOI:10.1111/aphw.12444

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