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Biofeedback Games and The Placebo Effect

samzenpus posted about a month and a half ago | from the machine-knows-I'm-happy dept.

Medicine 57

vrml writes In medicine, it is well-known that sugar pills sometimes produce the same effects as real drugs (Placebo Effect). But could that happen with computers too? The first scientific study of the Placebo Effect in computing, just published by the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies , gives an affirmative answer. The experiment considered affective computing, that is those fancy applications that claim to know user's emotions by detecting physiological parameters with sensors. Researchers took two well-known affective computing systems and used them to control in real-time the state of an avatar that looked more and more nervous as users' stress level increased, and more and more relaxed as it decreased. But they also considered a third system in which, unbeknown to users, the sensors were disconnected from the computer and the avatar state was controlled by a random stream of physiological data instead of the real user's data. Results show that participants believed that the sham application was able to display their stress level. Even worse, only one of the two (costly) affective computing systems produced better results than the placebo. This suggests that evaluations of such novel computer applications should include also a placebo condition, as it is routinely done in medicine but not yet in computer science.

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Or maybe it works the other way arround (2)

erice (13380) | about a month and a half ago | (#47472189)

The emotional state of the player is influenced by what he sees on the screen.

Re:Or maybe it works the other way arround (2)

Livius (318358) | about a month and a half ago | (#47472229)

It sounds like highly subjective inferences are unreliable and indistinguishable from background randomness.

Which has nothing to do with the placebo effect.

Re:Or maybe it works the other way arround (3, Informative)

Mr0bvious (968303) | about a month and a half ago | (#47472277)

I think the reference to the placebo effect it the users belief that the system can understand their emotions and not about if, why or how the devices fail.

The author also seems to suggest that the study/awareness of the placebo effect is only routinely used in medicine, but it's the one of the reasons why double blind tests are used and they are used in many industries besides medicine, including computer science.

Re:Or maybe it works the other way arround (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about a month and a half ago | (#47472737)

The thing is there are very good feedback therapies, I saw an application recently that was originally designed to help dancers perfect their moves. A neuroscientists working near the Sydney opera house who was interested in dance found it also helped stroke patients, undermining 35yrs of her own work in the field. But like any real scientists she had found a "better answer", so her opinion spun on a dime.

The fact that scammers make similar claims for a $5 app doesn't distract from the real benefits "biofeedback" can have, it distracts from the app store selling it and the ignoramus buying it.

Re:Or maybe it works the other way arround (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47472999)

Can you link to the published evidence of a treatment helping brain injured (TBI/Stroke) people along with the independent replication?

Re:Or maybe it works the other way arround (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47477693)

I wasn't being snarky in the above post. I do this type of research and to my knowledge what I asked for does not exist. So if you know of any I'd appreciate if you shared.

I'll stick with Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47472505)

or plain Sugar Frosted Sugar Bombs, when I need a change.

Re:Or maybe it works the other way arround (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about a month and a half ago | (#47472891)

I think it's this "other way around"...

maybe affective computing is just wishful thinking...

first, it's established fact that we have sensors that can detect changes in brain waves from outside the body, and further that by intentionally thinking a certain way, those signal alterations can be detected and connected to control systems

that's scientific fact & is really interesting...been around for decades, but still, mind control and all that

2nd, saying you're testing "the placebo effect" is a good way to confuse a scientific conversation..."the placebo effect" and using a placebo in a research study are mutually exclusive concepts. The whole point is to properly design the research by establishing experimental and control variables. A control group in an experiment might be given an inert pill (called a "placebo") as a dummy pill and results compared with the experimental pill's effects

"the placebo effect" is when those in the control group, those given the inert pill which will not have a biochemical effect on them, exhibit signs as if they have taken the experimental group pill. consult wikipedia for famous examples.

in common parlaince of popular science media, "the placebo effect" is used as a term to describe many kinds of research phenomena that is counter-intuitive and not readily explainable in the context of the research

this research shows that ("really expensive") affective control is about as good as a random generator...

***THAT'S NOT A PLACEBO EFFECT......THAT'S EVIDENCE THAT AFFECT CONTROL IS BULLSHIT***

bringing "the placebo effect" into the discussion only serves to obfuscate the data...which clearly shows that BCI controls may not be related to "emotions" in the way popular media and marketing and TED talks suggest

look...

this brain wave reading stuff is awesome...really...but just because your brain waves take a certain patter when you get "teh sadz" doesn't mean that bombarding your cranium with that wave will make you "teh sadz"

google glass has a BCI interface that can snap a photo with a thought...****AWESOME****

that's great...let's do more...but let's not pretend this explains "emotions" and let's not ever use "the placebo effect" in this manner as TFA does again :)

Re:Or maybe it works the other way arround (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a month and a half ago | (#47475279)

The placebo effect isn't just in medicine. Anytime someone has done something that they feel should act a certian way, there is a change of a placebo effect.
The wikipedia article focuses solely on the medical aspect use aspect of it, but external things can also cause an placebo effect.

For exanple: the more people pay for wine, the higher quality they think it is. It tasted better to them. Same mechanism

also, it An placebo effect, not THE placebo effect. There are different type, different categories, and thing you can do to change the likely hood it happens. It seems to happen 35% of the time, but the more invasive the placebo action is, the more likely the uptake and the longer the duration.
    A placebo surgery is going to be more likely to trigger a placebo effect, and when it does it's likely to be around longer.

This is why acupuncture does nothing but increase infection risk, yet people claim it works becasue the feel better...for a while.

snob good (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about a month and a half ago | (#47475425)

For exanple: the more people pay for wine, the higher quality they think it is. It tasted better to them. Same mechanism

thnx for the response but...i have to respectfully disagree here...not with you per se, but more with common parliance

the situation you describe is *similar* to "the placebo effect" used in research, but it is not an example proper

the situation you describe is an *economic* effect, which should not be confused...they call it the "snob effect" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org] In college I learned it as "snob good"

**yes** by this definition, most things people buy are in some way a "snob good"...ex: buying Charmin Ultra Soft instead of regular TP

remember, just an example...just like your wine example, it's a purchase of a good, which is governed by different behavior rules than personal actions like taking a sugar pill

"the placebo effect" that became part of common parliance is really, truly, only should describe the behavior we see in research when the control (placebo) group reports the same effect as the experimental thing

the problem is human behavior is **COMPLEX** and we have not, in any way, fully described it scientifically

so, lots of things people do could be called "the placebo effect" in some fashion, and you would have good reason to say so...b/c "the placebo effect" itself is poorly defined!

i'm aiming at clearing up linguistic differences so we can talk about the real issue

bottom line, every "placebo effect" we see has an explanation grounded in science that is testable

Re:Or maybe it works the other way arround (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47473231)

Exactly what I thought.

If the player gets the visual feedback that he's relaxing he might actually relax because everything seems to work.
The other way around he might get a higher stress level, because the results don't match and he gets frustrated...

Turing test with placebo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47472305)

How about adding the placebo effect to the turing test. The "turing macine" should be able to re-act to idiots as well as live people.

Therapeutic Use (2)

Scottingham (2036128) | about a month and a half ago | (#47472323)

I wonder if this effect could be used therapeutically. Have the biofeedback and all, but maybe provide a nudge/bias towards stress relief...

But then, that's not much better than putting crystals over a client's (rube's) body to let the negatons out.

Re:could be used therapeutically (4, Insightful)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about a month and a half ago | (#47472415)

The Placebo Effect is just our poor bodies reaching some limits vs more and more clever scientific studies.

As I understood it, it was self healing abilities only triggered by "someone gives a damn about me" that we don't easily access every day to fix other problems.

So having computer programs just goes more towards the whole "look, it's now on a computer" we've seen in darker scenarios. I'll stay positive on this note.

If you just stick 300 fortune cookies into a computer program, a few of them will strike home and then you get "therapeutic benefit". (I know, because I have a file of over a hundred of them, from asking my Chinese restaurant to give me a bunch each time. A few of them are really pretty good.)

Studies keep trying to go super narrow to carefully limit "complexity" but I am beginning to think the "Scientific Method" is on the verge of missing "Emergent Results" when they risk small details but leave behind controlling micro-scenarios.

Sideways from the Slashdot tradition, I didn't read the article because one look at the summary says it's too narrow, and it's become the Press's job to "expand them". Some journalists try hard, a few are hacks.

Much more broadly, I have smashed together a few projects I know have helped me.

Re: could be used therapeutically (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47472839)

"You are getting smarter and smarter, day by day."

"Fortune favors the bold."

Tomorrow's winning lottery numbers are: 3 14 17 21 30 34

Did one of those hit home? :)

Re:could be used therapeutically (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47473167)

The Placebo Effect is just our poor bodies reaching some limits vs more and more clever scientific studies.

The Placebo Effect doesn't exist. google "powerless placebo".

Re:could be used therapeutically (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47473935)

One swallow does not make a summer. The Placebo Effect has been documented in countless studies, and is the primary mechanism by which anti-depressants work. Read the Wikipedia page, which also mentions the meta-analysis you allude to. Also, tell me how you double-blind the "no treatment" case ...

Re:could be used therapeutically (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47473709)

Let's not forget the morally questionable Facebook experiment as well. It toyed with peoples emotions in a noticeable way that it made them either wholly positive or negative in regards to replying or posting things.

Imagine if a service made it a point to make you happy.
Instead, we get awful interfaces, annoying decisions by people that legally shouldn't be allowed to breathe, operating systems designed for systems they aren't being used on, forcing interfaces on people that do not want them and using hilariously bad statistics to defend them (MS Ribbon!), and so much crap thrown at us it just leaves you feeling empty.

Re:could be used therapeutically (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a month and a half ago | (#47475309)

The placebo effect heals nothing. It makes people feel better, not actually make them better.

Therapeutic Use (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47477591)

"But then, that's not much better than putting crystals over a client's (rube's) body to let the negatons out."

See, that is just silly. Look at the facts:

1. Doing anything will have a placebo effect.
2. THE PLACEBO EFFECTS WORKS, AND IMPROVES PEOPLES LIVES
3. Therefore crystal therapy can be quite useful, and far cheaper than conventional therapy.

Yes, when evaluating new medical procedures we should take into account the placebo effect. But since the placebo effect is one of the strongest "treatments" available, we should also work on maximizing the effect as well.

Why aren't we doing that? Why the hate on placebo treatments?

Lie detector (1)

Strange Attractor (18957) | about a month and a half ago | (#47472359)

Isn't this the same con perpetrated by the lie detector industry?

Re:Lie detector (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47472387)

As a representative of the respectable lie detector industry, I must say that there is no con. I'm ready to take a polygraph test to prove it, or, if you prefer, we could use a Ouija board and ask the opinion of an unliving party.

Re:Lie detector (1)

Belial6 (794905) | about a month and a half ago | (#47472665)

Lie detectors are fine if you understand their limits, and what the results mean.

Re: Lie detector (1)

theCzechGuy (1888010) | about a month and a half ago | (#47472827)

I.e. they don't actually detect lies.

Re: Lie detector (1)

Belial6 (794905) | about a month and a half ago | (#47485057)

Actually, that is accurate enough, although doesn't tell the whole story. Lie detectors are means of trying to detect a 'Tell' . The specifically try to find a 'Tell' by measuring bodily functions that the vast number of people have no voluntary control over. Placing 0% faith in lie detectors is even more foolish than placing 100% faith in them.

Re:Lie detector (2)

stephanruby (542433) | about a month and a half ago | (#47472965)

Lie detectors are fine if you understand their limits, and what the results mean.

I feel the same way about fortune tellers. Most fortunes told are fine if you understand their limits, and what their results mean.

Thankfully, I'm smart enough to know all of that, because I've actually studied fortune telling just like you must have studied lie detectors [antipolygraph.org] and you could say I've become quite the authority on the subject of fortune telling and writing fortune cookies.

Re:Lie detector (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about a month and a half ago | (#47475811)

If you can draw a comic book character, you can invent complex biofeedback machines that read 4 streams of hard data to yield a subjective determination on a subjective statement run through any number of mental processes.

I don't see why one wouldn't give you all the skills for the other.

Re:Lie detector (1)

Belial6 (794905) | about a month and a half ago | (#47485131)

Lie detectors are means of trying to detect a 'Tell' [google.com] . The specifically try to find a 'Tell' by measuring bodily functions that the vast number of people have no voluntary control over.

You are either completely ignorant of how lie detectors work, or you are hoping that if you wish hard enough, you can make unpleasant realities go away.

Re:Lie detector (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47473607)

No, you're thinking of Obamacare.

Magic 8-ball (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47472401)

Could have saved themselves a lot of effort just by researching how people actually believe magic 8-balls.

What if... (3, Interesting)

sd4f (1891894) | about a month and a half ago | (#47472435)

I wonder if this has any implications for internet crap that goes viral. Reason for it is, that so much stuff has gone silly, but I am never able to discern why, it always seems just stupid to me like gangnam style or the old spice commercial. It would be interesting to see if people were led to believe it was going viral, would it change their opinion, as opposed to just regular crap on the internet which goes nowhere. Is this a case of placebo effect as well, where people are told to like something because everyone else does, if you remove the everyone else and telling aspect, would the same content matter?

Re:What if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47473381)

I don't have a complete answer for you but I've seen plenty of offers to create viral advertising and suggestions that people make content specifically to "go viral"; people know how to seed things to make them more likely to be shared widely.

Re:What if... (1)

bluegutang (2814641) | about a month and a half ago | (#47473561)

That's why TV shows have laugh tracks.

Oh yeah, and slashdot comments are definitely funnier when they have been modded to +5 Funny.

Re:What if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47473655)

you get 3 more points and I might just crack a smile

Re:What if... (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a month and a half ago | (#47475181)

I wold like t see a study about laugh tracks in todays society. I have stopped watching show becasue laugh tracks are so damn annoying, AS are live study laughing.
If the joke hits, it hits, if not you are just waiting a second while the luagh track happens, taking away form the show.
Watch a how with a laugh track with the volume turned off. Actors more to spot, lips move, everyone stops and stares at each other for a second, rinse repeat.

Re:What if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47475435)

fyi....I laughed at yours even though its not +5 Funny

Re:What if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47473787)

Memetic content went viral long before viral was even considered a word to refer to it.
Fads happen, they come, they go.

Being part of it often leads to success since it is involving with a large group of people, which would possibly have been seen as an attractive quality.

Not done in computer science? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47472491)

So all of those papers using computer science to process control vs non-control didn't have a control. Darn...

Re:Not done in computer science? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47473461)

I don't think the existence of such apps makes the claims behind them "computer science" to begin with, in the same way the existence of an electronic barometer does not make meteorology become 'electronics science'.

Obligatory Abstruse Goose (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a month and a half ago | (#47473035)

Reminds me of this [abstrusegoose.com] .

In another news ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47473127)

The USPTO granted yet another patent yesterday with the magic enchantment "on a computer" to the lead researcher of the placebo experiment.

In yet another news troll company number 1 was granted a patent for placebo on ....wait for it ...."mobile phone" today.

All computers have an emotion detecting chip (1)

Bruce66423 (1678196) | about a month and a half ago | (#47473157)

The 'placebo' one is merely successful using the data collected by this feature. And we all know that it exists - every computer will go wrong just when you are most dependent on it working right...

Article behind the paywall (1)

WARM3CH (662028) | about a month and a half ago | (#47473265)

Pity that the article is behind a paywall. Anyone has a link to the full text (PDF)?

Or how about the USEFUL information? (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a month and a half ago | (#47473595)

I'd like two know which two systems aren't bullshit

Placebo effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47473509)

I believe many brands do that already
for exemple Apple:Give a random Display to someone and claim it is a "Retina Display"
and make the person compare it with a display with a much higher DPI,
the chances the person will say the "Retina" one is better are high

The test was already done by a few talk shows in USA and France , give an iphone 4 before the release of a newer one, and claim "its the new iphone" some people said "it is much better than the 4"

One Brand name can have a powerful placebo effect too.
give a Device with no brand and the very same one with the brand on it, user's judgement will be very biased.

Observations of Apple users anxiety (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47473587)

My own observations of those who choose to use Apple products is they are high-strung and prone to anxiety attacks when their high-priced shit doesn't work.

They also seem to be approximately 50x more likely to be homosexual.

Can anyone explain to me why homosexuals, who only make up approximately 1% of the population, make up approximately 50% of the Apple luser base?

Perhaps that is a natural result of Apple fucking them in their asses every time they bend over.

However, I don't know if there is an actual causality involved in my hypothesis, to wit:

Do Apple products appeal more to queers or does using Apple products make you more queer?

There aren't enough female Apple lusers to test my hypothesis for statistical validity.

I'm left to only hazard a guess that most females stay away from Apple products because they know they will never get any satisfaction from any queer Apple lusers.

I would like to hear from both straight and lesbian female Apple lusers about this.

Let's simplify this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47473621)

They left the "science" part out of "computer science" and now they're amazed that the results of something unscientifically done didn't hold up to scientific scrutiny?

Fools, the lot of them.

To Paraphrase (1)

metamarmoset (2728667) | about a month and a half ago | (#47473665)

Study finds: "Subject trying to learn how to relax, manages to relax, despite the relaxation aid being BS or even counterproductive."
Conclusion: "Recommend that autonomy of subject is taken into account in future studies, where success during trial is in subject's interest."

In good biofeedback studies, the subject should not be aware of the parameter they are attempting to control (e.g. I read a study in which the subject learned to raise and lower their body temperature at will, where as far as they were concerned, they were just trying to move a ball across a screen with their mind.)
Biofeedback is an interesting field with a lot of good scientific support, but suffers from a bad reputation due to prevalence of pseudoscience.

Disclaimer: I have worked on biofeedback research projects in the past.

Re:To Paraphrase (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a month and a half ago | (#47474551)

"Biofeedback is an interesting field with a lot of good scientific support"
err.. no, not a lot. a few studies. None that I have read were very good.
I'd be happy to read a good solid study if you have one you can share, or link to.

Re:To Paraphrase (1)

metamarmoset (2728667) | about a month and a half ago | (#47500439)

A quick Google scholar search for biofeedback returns "about 139 000 results", for just papers; patents and citations unchecked.

I recommend reading anything by John V. Basmajian. He wrote a good criticism of what he saw as common fallacies in EMG research in a chapter of "Mind/body integration : essential readings in biofeedback" (itself a mixed bag of good and poor articles.)

Some links to articles of interest: Moser et. al. 1997 [europepmc.org] , Rodriguez and Rosa 2012 [202.154.59.182] , Andrasik 2010 [ccjm.org]

Happy reading!

Knew this decades ago (1)

Sloppy (14984) | about a month and a half ago | (#47473919)

Users agree: adding a progress bar makes a thing faster.

Demo mode (1)

Arethereanyleft (442474) | about a month and a half ago | (#47474459)

I remember going into the office next to mine at a game development company and watching a couple of guys playing a boxing game. After a minute or so, I noticed that the movements on the screen seemed to have little to do with what the guys were doing with the controllers. I watched a little longer and asked if they were actually playing the game. They checked, and the game was in demo mode.

close (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a month and a half ago | (#47474537)

", it is well-known that sugar pills sometimes produce the same effects as real drugs "more correct:
, it is well-known that sugar pills sometimes make the patient feel like they are experiencing same effects as real drugs

It's important because charlatan take advantage of the first statement. There are case where people give up real treatment in place for a magical one and swear they 'feel' better.
Andy Kaufman is a great example.

More accurate even:
Deceiving one self based on an emotional buy in to something.
We see similar things in none medical areas. For example, someone who buys a new car will ignore or excuse away defect. How long they do it goes up with the expense of the car relative to income,.

Re:close (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a month and a half ago | (#47476565)

", it is well-known that sugar pills sometimes produce the same effects as real drugs "more correct:
, it is well-known that sugar pills sometimes make the patient feel like they are experiencing same effects as real drugs

How about simply s/effects/results/?

You can take it as either an endorsement of positivity or an indictment against some drugs, which we hope are not actually approved.

Double blindness (1)

hawkfish (8978) | about a month and a half ago | (#47474991)

There was some survey done in the UK a few years back where the researcher went around and asked a bunch of people in various disciplines how often they used double-blind experimental designs. The results were kind of depressing. Physics was the worst at about 0.5% or something. Medical stuff was around one third. Oddly enough, the highest rate was for... ESP researchers.

So this sort of thing seems pretty widespread.

Ask yourself... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47475553)

Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so. - JS Mill

Research, not Medicine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47477801)

Double Blind studies are done to isolate placebo effect.
In medical research with patients who have consented to said research.
Which is very different from, "routinely done in medicine."

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