Fake It Until You Make It

Sep 29

by third-year Erik Wien

We’ve all heard stories about people pretending to be doctors or various other professionals until they are found out. Nearly every time, the impersonators are ill-equipped to successfully perform their professional duties. Those stories are quite extreme, but there is some science behind what they’re doing. It’s called the Placebo Effect.

If you haven’t heard of this phenomenon, it is the measurable result of drugs in subjects who are given a sugar pill versus subject who are given no drug. Patients who are given sugar pills are told it is the medicine being tested,and actually report feeling better than those who aren’t given anything. This effect occurs because the person truly believes the pill is working, illustrating the power of “mind over body.” Coaches and athletes know the benefits of keeping a strong mentality, psyching themselves to push through pain to accomplish remarkable feats. A similar aspect can be applied to the ongoings of everyday life.

In everyday life the placebo effect could be described as “false confidence.” This would best be defined as an assurance that one is capable of completing a task based on false knowledge or a nonexistent fact. While it can be misleading, the person is usually the beneficiary of this confidence, oftentimes completing tasks and getting results he would originally back down from. If we can manipulate the effect to provide a sense of confidence whilst being aware of its falsehood, it could bring us closer to accomplishing our dreams or conquering our obstacles.

Consider that next organic chemistry test, or the beginning of your new job. Everyone gets nervous for a test they don’t feel prepared for or a first day at a new office, but that can inhibit performance. You are a doctor, MD or a PA – maybe not now, but you will be – who is going to better lives. It may not be the easiest test but every doctor has passed this course, and you will too. You might not be completely prepared for a new, big-time job, but you were hired because you were the right person. You can already see the ‘Employee of the Month’ plaques hanging on the wall behind your desk. Even though there won’t be any sugar pills to take, the placebo effect could have a profound impact on future aspirations.

photo by Audrey Thorn