It seems no matter how enlightened we become, the level of hokum in the world stays the same. In the dark ages you could not fault a person for believing that leeches and blood-letting could cure all ailments. The education just wasn’t available. But now, as scientists are peeking into the fabric of the universe, there is just no excuse anymore. It’s time to stop believing in stupid things.
The latest flim-flam that has me irked is the “power bracelet” fad. These bracelets are supposed to give you strength, balance, and energy through the use of magnets, ions, or resonant frequencies. Bah humbug.
Within 5 minutes on the internet, an information storehouse that would make Archimedes quiver, I was able to find an Australian news report that put these bracelets to a double-blind test. As soon as they were scientifically tested, all the reported benefits failed to be seen over and over again. Yet, they are still selling like new-age hotcakes.
The popular sales tactic for the bracelets is a balance test, where the sucker… er… subject stands on one foot and gets pushed around by the demonstrator. When the bracelet is worn, their balance miraculously improves.
I personally have zero faith that the bracelet does a darn thing, so the results of this test are caused by one or both of two factors.
The Placebo effect has been proved to create changes in your physiology through purely psychological means. It can be summed up as the power of positive thinking. If a subject believes the bracelet has positive affects, then they will make it come true.
The second factor is the bias and influence of the demonstrator. When they conduct the balance tests they can change the results based on how hard the push, where they push, or the direction they push the subject. Their influence may be intentional or sub-conscious.
A double-blind test can remove both placebo and influence from the proceedings to better measure the true results. In the case of this bracelet balance test, we could have six people wearing bracelets. Some are the “power” bracelet, while others are imitations. The subjects must not know which bracelet they are wearing.
Also, the demonstrator doing the pushing must not know which bracelet is which. They will not be able to influence the results, or have any bias.
Finally, the double-blind test, like any scientific result, must be repeated. Even not knowing which bracelet they are wearing, a subject could believe they have the real thing, and the placebo effect could come into play. Repetition nullifies random variables, and confirms results.
I encourage you to use the double-blind test, the skeptics favourite tool, to challenge anything in your life that seems too good to be true. Even if it’s something you truly do believe in. Especially if it’s something you believe in. Some people say that it’s better to have false hope, and not to challenge things. I disagree. Let’s find the truth.
Double-blind tests can be used to determine if Cheerios taste better than the generic “toasted wheat rings”, or if $200 dollar speaker cables perform better than coathanger wire. You can remove your false beliefs, and save some cash!
- Video: Richard Saunders conducts experiments on the bracelets - YouTube