Current Psychology

, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 194–203 | Cite as

Merely Possessing a Placebo Analgesic Reduced Pain Intensity: Preliminary Findings from a Randomized Design

  • Victoria Wai-lanYeungEmail author
  • Andrew Geers
  • Simon Man-chun Kam


An experiment was conducted to examine whether the mere possession of a placebo analgesic cream would affect perceived pain intensity in a laboratory pain-perception test. Healthy participants read a medical explanation of pain aimed at inducing a desire to seek pain relief and then were informed that a placebo cream was an effective analgesic drug. Half of the participants were randomly assigned to receive the cream as an unexpected gift, whereas the other half did not receive the cream. Subsequently, all participants performed the cold-pressor task. We found that participants who received the cream but did not use it reported lower levels of pain intensity during the cold-pressor task than those who did not receive the cream. Our findings constitute initial evidence that simply possessing a placebo analgesic can reduce pain intensity. The study represents the first attempt to investigate the role of mere possession in understanding placebo analgesia. Possible mechanisms and future directions are discussed.


Placebo effect Mere possession Cold pressor Placebo analgesia Pain 


Compliance with Ethical Standards


This research was part of a larger project supported by a Faculty Research Grant (FRG #02133) to the first author.

Human Studies

The research involved human participants.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants in the study.

Ethical Approval

The researchers obtained ethical approval from the University and complied with ethical guidelines for the treatment of human participants.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Victoria Wai-lanYeung
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andrew Geers
    • 2
  • Simon Man-chun Kam
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Applied PsychologyLingnan UniversityTuen MunHong Kong
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyThe University of ToledoToledoUnited States

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