Over at Dawkins.net, Dawkins comments:
Dan Ariely's finding that more expensive fake medicines work better than cheaper fake medicines is an extremely interesting result, which explains a lot about human gullibility more generally. When missionaries started invading Africa, Catholic baptisms were more popular than Protestant ones, because you had to pay. A similar effect is notorious in the world of art dealing. Ariely's finding is, in my opinion a very important piece of psychological research, which is of academic as well as practical interes
AP news reports it like this:
Duke University behavioral economist Dan Ariely won an Ig Nobel for his study that found more expensive fake medicines work better than cheaper fake medicines.
"When you expect something to happen, your brain makes it happen," Ariely said.
Ariely spent three years in a hospital after suffering third-degree burns over 70 percent of his body. He noticed some burn patients who woke in the night in extreme pain often went right back to sleep after being given a shot. A nurse confided to him the injections were often just saline solution.
He says his work has implications for the way drugs are marketed. People often think generic medicine is inferior. But gussy it up a bit, change the name, make it appear more expensive, and maybe it will work better, he said.