Posted by: Jodi | March 24, 2010

Toyota Recalls and the Placebo Effect

It is a medically proven fact that a placebo can cause physical changes.  When someone believes that the pretend pill will help, be it with insomnia or weight loss, a change happens in the brain.  It actually creates its own chemicals to help solve the problem.  This only happens in a percentage of the population.

We are seeing the same effect on people who have heard about or received Toyota recalls about a malfunctioning accelerator pedal.  Suddenly perfectly good cars are accelerating out of control!

Now, when someone driving a Toyota suddenly experiences a braking or acceleration problem their first thought is, “Oh *&$%, my car is broken!” instead of, “What am I doing wrong?”  That few extra seconds to figure out the problem, like pushing the wrong pedal, is enough to be deadly.  In fact, there as been an interesting statistic emerging – all deaths from “malfunctioning” Prius’s are people over the age of sixty.  As we age our reaction speed decreases.

The power of suggestion can be very useful or very damaging depending on how it is used.  We all have heard the stories of people surviving crazy situations because they thought they could.  Likewise we have heard of people dying in less than serious situations because they thought they would.

As writers we can use the placebo effect to our advantage.  Often we need to steer our characters towards actions that are not natural for them.  The best example that comes to mind is in the form of magical objects and cursed objects.  In non-fantasy land this can be good and bad luck charms.  A lousy warrior given a “magical sword” suddenly becomes a hero and saves the day.  A hero is cursed and cannot escape a difficult situation.

How will you use the placebo effect to your advantage?

Links:

Three different Toyota cases:

Age Statistics of Accidents

Historical precedent, the Audi 5000 had a similar problem in the 1980’s

Scientific American: The Placebo Effect

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Responses

  1. Yep. Got it in one!

  2. […] Toyota Recalls and the Placebo Effect […]

  3. […] Portions reprinted with permission from MyLiteraryQuest […]


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