pain of self-hypnosis can be contagious

The experiment, the results of which were published in the journal Communications Psychology, showed the amazing effect of self-hypnosis. When a patient was told before a fictitious medical procedure that it was painful, he often began to experience real discomfort.

The placebo effect has long been known, when a person’s condition actually improves while taking ineffective drugs or undergoing “empty” procedures. There is also the opposite phenomenon: the nocebo effect, when a patient has negative expectations that a treatment will cause harm, and this belief leads to negative outcome.

New research has provided further insight into this effect, reports

In another experiment, participants were told that the procedure they were about to undergo could increase pain. The researchers set up a group “therapy” in which one patient had a device with a heated plate applied to the skin.

Another subject observed this procedure. The scientists increased the temperature of the plate, which made the procedure painful.

Then the procedure was performed on other participants; at first they were observers, then demonstrators. The plate heating was increased only for the first patient. But others also reported pain during the procedure, although their plates were at normal temperature.

This means that pain was “transmitted along the chain” from one demonstrator to others, although in fact only the first of them found the procedure painful. This is clearly the effect of self-hypnosis when observing real or even fictitious, “phantom” pain of another subject.

Moreover, scientists came to this conclusion not only on the basis of observations or subjective self-assessments of the experiment participants. The response was also assessed using instruments: by the activity of the sweat glands at the tips of the fingers, and by the degree of tension in the facial muscles.

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The equipment data confirmed that the participants actually felt pain during the fictitious procedure. That is, the nocebo effect manifests itself not only in the field of psychology, but also gives a completely physiological reaction.

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