Mobilizing unused resources: Using the placebo concept to enhance cognitive performance
Ulrich W. Wegera & Stephen Loughnan


Abstract: People have significant psychological resources to improve their well-being and performance, but these resources often go unused and could be better harnessed. In the medical domain, it is well established that these resources can be mobilized under certain conditions, for example in the context of the placebo effect. Here we explored whether the placebo principle can be used to enhance cognitive performance. To do so, we employed a modified placebo induction—a bogus priming method that we told participants would unconsciously enhance their knowledge and that they should hence trust their skills in an upcoming knowledge test. Participant performance was indeed enhanced, compared to a group that did not think the priming process would improve their knowledge. The study documents the relevance of the placebo effect outside the medical and therapeutic setting.

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