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Romanov His Heid

And talking about Hearts (as all the sports media in Scotland have been today) Guess where convicted sex offender and ex Jambo, Craig Thomson has pitched up?

Jam Tart? or Fruitcake?

I see that Hearts have appointed Paulo Sérgio, formerly of Sporting Lisbon, as their new manager, their eightth appointment in seven years.

I’m sure that will work out really well, and that Senor Sérgiom can look forward to several weeks or even months of unbridled support from Vladimir Romanov.

The Bitterest Pill?

I wear a copper bracelet with magnets in it for aches and pains. Other than making a greenish mark on my skin, I’ve never really been all that convinced that it was doing any good.

I decided to check, and wasn’t all that surprised to find that in medical tests the bracelets were found to be pretty useless, just as I’ve read that the glucosamine and omega 3 I take haven’t measured up very well to some testing either.

In all these tests, placebos are used, for example in the bracelet test, dummy copper and magnets replaced real ones to gauge the ‘placebo effect’ – the strange phenomenon that appears to provide medical benefit although no actual treatment is being administered. This started me thinking of the power of the placebo effect and I’ve done a bit of reading on it.

Much has been written about homoeopathic and other alternative medical treatments in recent years. Scientists have for a long time dismissed such treatments saying that there is no evidence of any benefit when compared to placebos.

In 2002 a five year study costing $6 million found that the herbal remedy St John’s wort was less effective than a placebo in the treatment of depression. St John’s wort had managed to cure 24% of cases of moderate to severe depression. Quite impressive eh? until you read that 32% were cured using a sugar pill. However, a rather embarrassing fact emerged from the research; the prescription anti-depressant Zoloft, which was also part of the trial, had been barely more effective than the herb, curing only 25%.

There is certainly no shortage of intriguing leads – such as the way people in different countries respond to placebos. A study in 2001 looked at the results from double-blinded trials for stomach-ulcer medication around the world. The average placebo response rate was 35%, which was the figure for the US, but in Germany it shot up to 59%. In neighbouring Denmark, however, it dropped to 22%, while in Brazil it was just 7%. The reason for these differences is unknown.

This is Dan Ariely, author of Why do Placebos Work?

So placebos have quite an effect. Their psychosomatic power is increased if the patient is told that the treatment is expensive!

It begs the question that if placebos are effective in medical idioms and trials, what about for other products?

Volunteers tasted and rated five wines, each individually priced, although in fact there were only three different wines, and two were tasted twice: once labelled at $90 a bottle, and once at $10 a bottle. The results were very clear: the wine tasted better simply because people were told it was expensive.

See also Ariely’s example of the beer comparison at 3 mins 30 seconds in the video above.

I have direct experience of this in my work.

We sell a cat litter in wood pellet form. In one package it costs £9.99 for a bag and in another it is £11.99. The £9.99 packaging isn’t quite so impressive as the £11.99 one, however the quantity and quality of the product is identical.

I know this because the content of both bags is from the same production line

However customers will insist on the more expensive one.

It’s the same with dog food. We sell a product under our own plain label and the same product in a colourful branded bag. It doesn’t matter how you tell some people that the product is the same, they will insist on the more expensive ‘looking’ product, which coincidentally is more expensive!

Is there really £70 difference in quality between a pair of Primark jeans and Levi’s?

I pose the question, is a fool one who perceives value where there is none? Does he know the value of everything and the price of nothing?

I’m afraid I’m probably one of Wilde’s cynics.

Mind you, last night I paid a grand total of £134 for two tickets for me and my daughter to see Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler.

At the checkout there was an option to insure the tickets for £4 each.

The tickets were sent to me in pdf form. I printed them out and have them saved on my pc. I have a separate note of the number just in case.

What kind of eejit would buy such insurance? ( OK I’ll say it, the same kind of eejit who’d pay £134 to see two past their best musicians?)

Why not just print two copies of the tickets and keep them in separate locations?

Anyway, I’ve spent more time on this that I intended, and I have to get to work.

Now where did I put my copper bracelet?

Sources: The Guardian Stone Glasgow

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