By Vanessa Chalmers Health Reporter For Mailonline
Published: 09:42 BST, 22 October 2019 | Updated: 09:43 BST, 22 October 2019
Medicine can work better if the doctor prescribing it believes that it works, a study has suggested.
In a role-play scenario, 24 volunteers were seen by a pretend doctor who gave them a cream to treat a burn on their arm.
All of the creams were Vaseline. However, the doctors were told by the researchers that some were medicated and would heal the wound better.
When given the 'superior' cream, the participants' pain eased more - even though they were still only applying Vaseline.
The researchers believe subtle signals, such as increased eye contact, reinforce the doctor's confidence in the treatment.
Medicine can work better if doctors have a strong faith in it, according to a study in which researchers pretended Vaseline was a medicated cream for burns
Professor Luke Chang, of the department of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, was the senior author of the study.
He said: 'These findings demonstrate how subtle social interactions can impact clinical outcomes.
'Even though the study participants were role playing and weren't actual health professionals or patients, you can imagine that in a real clinical context, if the healthcare providers seemed competent, empathetic and confident that a treatment may work, the impact on patient outcomes could be even stronger.'
A placebo is anything that seems to be a 'real' medical treatment but is not, whether that be a sugar pill or saline injection.
What all placebos have in common is they do not contain an active substance that boosts a person's health.
Placebos are used in studies to help scientists understand the effect of a new treatment on a given condition.