Placebo effect refers to beneficial changes induced by the use of inert treatment, such as placebo-induced relief of physical pain and attenuation of negative affect. To date, we know little about whether placebo treatment could facilitate social functioning, a crucial aspect for well-being of a social species. In the present study, we develop and validate a paradigm to induce placebo effects on social trust and approach behavior (social placebo effect), and show robust evidence that placebo treatment promotes trust in others and increases preference for a closer interpersonal distance. We further examine placebo effects in real-life social interaction and show that placebo treatment makes single, but not pair-bonded, males keep closer to an attractive first-met female and perceive less social anxiety in the female. Finally, we show evidence that the effects of placebo treatment on social trust and approach behavior can be as strong as the effect of intranasal administration of oxytocin, a neuropeptide known for its function in facilitating social cognition and behavior. The finding of the social placebo effect extends our understanding of placebo effects on improvement of physical, mental, and social well-being and suggests clinical potentials in the treatment of social dysfunction.
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Placebo treatment facilitates social trust.
Nasal sprays containing oxytocin have been shown to facilitate pro-social behaviors. Xan et al. have now shown that this effect can be obtained using nasal sprays containing only saline, if subjects are told the spray contains oxytocin and are educated on its expected pro-social effects: