Friday, December 05, 2008


An article by Markoff reminds me of the recent post on an example of the nocebo effect (Reading the drug side-effects label can make you sick). He describes a study by Microsoft suggesting that self-diagnosis by search engine frequently leads Web searchers to conclude the worst about what ails them.
They found that Web searches for things like headache and chest pain were just as likely or more likely to lead people to pages describing serious conditions as benign ones, even though the serious illnesses are much more rare...For example, there were just as many results that linked headaches with brain tumors as with caffeine withdrawal, although the chance of having a brain tumor is infinitesimally small.

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