Do you know about the idea “The Placebo Effect”? It’s a phenomenon mostly used for the effectiveness of many medical therapies like remedies for pain, depression and many more. The effect helps us to understand the apparent effectiveness of a certain medication therapy allowing a patient to improve after a fake treatment or surgery. In simple words, it’s a complex human experience that combines expectations, hopes and beliefs.
At present, the “Placebo Effect” is being brought to practice in counseling therapies as well. Experts claim that the counseling process is just another form of a complete placebo effect and is responsible for any positive outcome or improvements in the condition of the client or patient. Here comes a weird situation from which arises a practical question for the insurance companies. Should they pay for the counseling services or therapy needed for the treatment of a patient or client?
Ok, how was the short tour?
Would you believe me, if I tell you that the “Placebo Effect” can effectively be used in language learning? Yes, it’s possible and can be a very effective way of learning a foreign language.
You haven’t got my point yet, right? Let’s forget about language learning and concentrate solely on the so-called “Placebo Effect”.
The word “Placebo” is a Latin word by origin meaning “to please” and has been in use since the 14th Century. The process includes giving a patient a substance in place of a real medicine or treatment or therapy, with a view to please him by making him experience an improvement in health. In this process, a simple sugar pill can have a significant effect though it does not contain the desired pharmaceutical and psychological components and qualities required for the said treatment. Actually, it’s a substance or procedure having no ability to come up with an expected effect.
The common belief about the placebo effect is that it brings improvements in a patient’s health or condition. But the term “nocebo” a Latin word meaning “to harm” can also be found as a negative effect resulting in the degradation of a patient’s condition. Things get complicated when a therapy or procedure that serves as a placebo for one person or client or patient serves as a nocebo for another. It has tremendous powers to change a person’s condition or a patient’s health containing no pharmaceutical ingredients at all. The challenge or the concern about the subject is on maximizing the possibility of a procedure or substance that ascertains the outcome of a beneficial placebo effect on the health and condition of a patient or client.
Some Placebo Cases as Examples
A great many numbers of intriguing examples are available to prove the placebo existence. In a study (1960 – Japan) a group of students was told that they were given leaves from an itchy (irritating) plant, though the leaves were actually from a harmless tree. The students by rubbing it on their arms came up with real red itchy rashes on their skin.
In the late 1940s, a group of patients was told they were given either a drug to cause vomiting or a drug to soothe their stomach. The patients proceeded with the corresponding psychological reactions and came up with even more astonishing findings. Patients who were actually treated with drugs responsible for vomiting but were told they were given drugs to soothe their stomach did actually have the psychological as well as physical experience matching what they were told and not what they were given.
The placebo effect exists remarkably in the surgical field as well. A team of anesthesiologists in the 1960s conducted a study on two groups of surgical patients. Patients of group-A were conveyed a very simple message that doctors had ordered a special drug to relieve them from pain and were told not to hesitate to ask for it when they needed it. They ended up with almost least of the medication and were released much earlier in comparison with the surgical patients of group B with no message at all.
The possibilities of the Placebo Effect in the field of health and medicine are now on the rise. Studies reveal that the medication process today primarily works through and with the placebo effect. In fact, some variants associated with this effect have come into existence. Tasteless placebos are less effective than strong tasting ones and salt water injections work better than plain sterile water injections.
Theories on the Placebo Effect
There are roughly three primary sources of theories on how the Placebo Effect works. They are called the “Learning Theories on The Placebo Effect”. The theories are namely
The Expectancy Theory
The Conditioning Theory
The Meaning Theory
These theories in most cases help us to understand the complexities of the placebo effect.
Among them, the “Expectancy Theory” is the most popular one and is relevant to our present discussion too. So what actually the Expectancy Theory is.
In short, our Expectations and hopes have brought this theory into existence. When a patient or client expects a certain effect or experience due to the intake of a substance which is believed to be a genuine medicine or treatment, he or she is under the placebo effect. If the person hopes for an improvement in his or her health after receiving a medicine, chances are high that he or she will recover, even if the “medicine” does not contain the desired pharmaceutical ingredients. The improvement cannot be explained by any of the medication processes.
I think you’ve got a rough but not clear idea of the Placebo Effect by now. Haven’t you?
Now let’s come to the point.
How It Works with Language Learning
In the beginning, I mentioned that the “Placebo Effect” can be used very effectively in language learning. The possibilities are far-reaching and even more than expected.
According to the “Expectancy Theory,” people who took the placebo did think that they had the medicine required and are going to experience improvements in their health. The theory tells that those patients” belief in the power of a medicine or a pill made them or the clients expect such effect – the medicine would cure them or they would cure because they had taken the right medicine. The belief in the power of medicine influences a patient significantly because everything inside a human body is controlled or influenced by what he or she thinks or believes.
So your belief is the key factor here
Just think of your belief in your mother tongue. How exactly did you learn it? Someone, most probably your parents made you believe that you can learn it at a primary level. You felt by heart that you could do it. It’s exactly the same thing with learning a different language too.
When you believe that reading is a very good habit for your language learning and feel the method you are using is effective, you will learn better and faster.
Let’s take the example of reading a novel. You will feel confident because now you know reading is very good for your improvement. If it’s an English one, it’s going to do so much for your English. In fact, your reading practice makes you expose yourself to certain words and phrases in English. There would certainly be a lot of words that you don’t know and which you don’t look up in the dictionary for but your belief and expectations would make the experience enjoyable for you and make you sense the meaning to a great extent even if you don’t know much of the language itself.
But, if you don’t believe that reading practice is good for your language learning, believe me; you’ll never experience the taste of sweetness.
It’s very common to have no likeness for reading at all. But when you know something is very effective, you believe it’s very effective. In your life, many other things are effective just because you believe them to be effective. So, if you believe that reading is going to help you learn, it’s going to make you learn. This is all about a method just as the placebo medicine – if you believe in the method, the medicine – you will improve faster with the Learning Method and the method (Placebo) will work for you.
If you believe in a different method, go for it and stay with it. You’ll discover that you can do even better, learn better.
Will meet you with another post.
Till then, Bye
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