So now there’s some physiological evidence to the old adage: God helps those who help themselves. The placebo effect has been regarded in ways as diverse as “A magical mystical self healing tool” and “A treacherous trick from some crackpot’s pot”. This piece of research sheds some light on the psychological traits that allow the effect to take place – and there’s some lightness indeed.
Neuroscientist Jon-Kar Zubieta of the University of Michigan
“… found that people with certain personality traits—specifically, those who scored high on resiliency, altruism, and straightforwardness, and low on measures of “angry hostility”—were more likely to experience a placebo-induced painkilling response. Importantly, such individuals also had decreased cortisol levels and greater activation of endogenous opioid receptors in brain regions associated with reward.”
While Tor Wager, a neuroscientist at the University of Boulder, Colorado (not involved in the study), comments:
“Studies like this are giving us a new set of candidate personality measures that can predict for placebo analgesia, and they’re mostly positive traits,” said Wager. “So placebo responders are being cast in a much more positive light, personality-wise, than they were a few decades ago, when they were thought to be hysterical and neurotic. ”