Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 50, Issue 3, pp 445–451 | Cite as

You Can’t Always Get What You Want: The Influence of Choice on Nocebo and Placebo Responding

  • Hannah Bartley
  • Kate Faasse
  • Rob Horne
  • Keith J. PetrieEmail author
Original Article



Choice may be an important influence on the effectiveness and side effects of medical treatments.


We investigated the impact of having a choice of medication compared to no choice on both nocebo and placebo responding.


Sixty-one participants were randomly assigned to either choose between or be assigned to one of the two equivalent beta-blocker medications (actually placebos) for pre-examination anxiety.


There was a greater nocebo response in the no choice group and an increased placebo response in the choice group. Participants in the no choice group attributed significantly more side effects to the tablet than the choice group (p = 0.045), particularly at the 24-h follow-up (p = 0.002). The choice group showed a stronger placebo response in heart rate than the non-choice group.


Not being given a choice of medication increased the nocebo effect and reduced the placebo response to the treatment.


Choice Nocebo effect Placebo effect Side effects Medication efficacy 



This research was funded by Pharmac New Zealand (the New Zealand Government’s Pharmaceutical Management Agency). The sources of funding for this study played no role in the study’s design, conduct, or reporting.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Authors’ Statement of Conflict of Interest and Adherence to Ethical Standards Authors Bartley, Faasse, Horne, and Petrie declare that they have no conflict of interest. All procedures, including the informed consent process, were conducted in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000.


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Copyright information

© The Society of Behavioral Medicine 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hannah Bartley
    • 1
  • Kate Faasse
    • 1
  • Rob Horne
    • 2
  • Keith J. Petrie
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Psychological Medicine, Faculty of Medical and Health SciencesUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.Centre for Behavioural MedicineUCL School of PharmacyLondonUK

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