Does “As If” Thinking Really Work? (NSQ Ep. 12)
Also: how effective is the placebo effect?
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Relevant References & Research
Question #1: Can you really fake it until you make it?
- Here is a link to the Quora post that inspired Stephen’s question about “as if” thinking.
- Angela mentions an experiment by personality psychologist William Fleeson where research subjects were asked to act extroverted. The full study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2002.
- Angela references behavioral activation therapy (B.A.T.) as an example of effective “as if” thinking. If you’re interested to learn more, the University of Michigan offers a helpful resource on how to use B.A.T. to treat clinical depression.
- Angela brings up a recent NSQ episode that celebrates the life of behavioral psychologist Anders Ericsson. You can listen to the full episode, Ep. 8 “Wouldn’t It Be Better to Hear Your Eulogy Before You’re Dead,” in our archives.
- Angela shares that whenever she feels lost in her career, she tries to imagine what Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck would do in her particular situation. If you’re interested to learn more about Dweck’s work, we recommend checking out her 2006 book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
- Angea refers to the work of Lev Vygotsky, whom she calls “the Freud of Russia.” To learn more about Vygotsky’s fascinating life and work, check out the 2018 book Vygotsky: An Intellectual Biography.
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Question #2: How does the placebo effect change our perception of reality?
- Stephen references the work of pain researcher Jeffrey Mogil — Mogil says, “The placebo effect is the most interesting phenomenon in all of science … It’s at the precise interface of biology and psychology.” You can learn more about Mogil’s research here.
- Stephen and Angela discuss the effects of “surgery placebos.” A 2014 systematic review from the B.M.J. found that the fake surgery led to improvements 75 percent of the time.
- Stephen references Dr. Mehmet Oz’s complementary medicine program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
- Angela tells a story about a young sprinter from the book Bullshit by former N.F.L. player John W. Wright.
- Stephen and Angela touch on the wise feedback study by psychologist David Yeager. To learn more about the study, check out NSQ Ep. 7, “How Do You Handle Criticism?”
- Stephen tells the story of Freakonomics Radio’s 2014 peanut butter and jelly experiment. The experiment was inspired by the paper, “Do Pharmacists Buy Bayer? Sophisticated Shoppers and the Brand Premium.” You can learn more by listening to Freakonomics Radio Ep. 178, “How to Save $1 Billion Without Even Trying.”