[EconTalk] Gary Greenberg on the Placebo Effect

Gary Greenberg on the Placebo Effect

04/02/2019 by EconTalk: Russ Roberts

Web player: http://podplayer.net/?id=63017914
Episode: http://files.libertyfund.org/econtalk/y2019/Greenbergplacebo.mp3

Author and psychotherapist Gary Greenberg talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the placebo effect. Is it real? How does the placebo effect influence drug testing? If it’s real, what is the underlying mechanism of why it works and how might it be harnessed to improve health care? The conversation concludes with a discussion of how knowledge of the placebo effect has influenced Greenberg’s psychotherapy practice.

Listen Date: 2019-03-22


  1. The interesting thing I learned was that the placebo effect has a genetic component; so that some people are more likely to respond to placebo than others.
  2. And, that lower back pain is particularly reponsive to placebo. So is irritable bowel syndrome.
  3. And finally, that the placebo effect has been increasing over time – though I wish that Greenberg had mentioned numbers of how much exactly.
  4. In general, lack of numbers was an exasperating thing about this episode. All discussions of effect and impact were couched in generalities.
  5. I wondered if you could design an experiment to test placebo effectiveness by telling groups “You will be taking the pill for fifty days, and getting placebo on half the days, randomly, and active on half the days, randomly.” but a control group gets all placebo, all the time.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s