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TED-Ed Original lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed original? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Emma Bryce
  • Director Hernando Bahamon
  • Artist Andrés Landazábal
  • Animator Miguel Otálora
  • Compositor Ricardo Avila
  • Composer Manuel Borda
  • Narrator Addison Anderson


Additional Resources for you to Explore
What exactly is the placebo effect? The answer is often confusing, open to interpretation, and difficult to pin down—so it’s best to start off with a good definition to set us on the right course. Here’s one from the American Medical Association, as well as an outline of how placebos should be ethically used in medicine. This source will give you a basic primer on the effect and all that it entails. And here’s another useful article that leads you step-by-step through some of the most common questions people have about these fake treatments.

If you’re curious about the history of the placebo, this review delves into its fascinating backstory, explaining the Latin roots of the word, and how doctors used the effect to calm patients in times gone by. It also describes the early use of placebos in clinical trials—and if that’s a subject you’re interested in, these two detailed articles will also give you a good primer on the ethical quandaries surrounding their use. Here’s another article that explains how clinical trials work, and why placebos are seen as an important tool in this process.

One of the most interesting things about placebos, of course, is the effect they appear to have on the people who take them. Watch this video, in which physician Ben Goldacre describes the phenomenon and many of its incredible effects. Here you can read more about the famous Trivaricaine experiment, as well as the effect of placebos on the perception of pain. The ability of placebos to dim pain has even caused serious problems for researchers trying to test legitimate painkillers. If you have time for a longer read, take a look at these two articles about the work of medic and researcher Ted Kaptchuk, whose years of research have revealed some of the most amazing side effects placebos can cause.

Placebos present many ethical dilemmas, and their effects aren’t necessarily something we should celebrate—but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t marvel at this phenomenon. Watch Ted Kaptchuk’s TEDMed Talk here to see why.