Home » Dr. Alia Crum: Change Your Mindset, Change The Game at TEDxTraverseCity (Transcript)

Dr. Alia Crum: Change Your Mindset, Change The Game at TEDxTraverseCity (Transcript)

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Here is the full transcript of psychology professor Dr. Alia Crum’s TEDx Talk: Change Your Mindset, Change The Game at TEDxTraverseCity Conference.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Change your mindset, change the game by Dr. Alia Crum at TEDxTraverseCity


Dr. Alia Crum – ‎Assistant Professor of Psychology; Stanford University

So today, I’m going to talk about how our mindsets matter in virtually every facet of our lives. But I want to begin by telling a story about a group of researchers in Italy.

Dr. Fabrizio Benedetti and his colleagues studied a group of patients undergoing thoracic surgery. Now, what you should know about thoracic surgery is that it’s a very invasive procedure. Patients are put under anesthesia while the surgeons make major incisions into the muscles of the sides and the back in order to gain access to their hearts and to their lungs.

Now, about an hour after the anesthesia fades away, the pain starts to set in. Fortunately, patients are given strong doses of morphine sulfate, a powerful painkiller. This is routine treatment for thoracic surgery, but Dr. Benedetti and his colleagues made a few subtle tweaks: half of the patients were given the dose of morphine by a doctor at their bedside; the other half was given the exact same dose of morphine but it was administered into their IV by a pre-programmed pump.

Now you would think that both of these groups of patients would experience the same relief, but this was not the case. The group that received the morphine by the doctor reported significant reductions in their pain levels. The other group — the group who received the same exact amount of morphine but wasn’t aware of it, they didn’t seem to experience the same benefit.

So Dr. Benedetti and his colleagues didn’t stop there. They used the same procedure to test the effectiveness of other treatments — treatments for anxiety, treatments for Parkinson’s disease, treatments for hypertension. And what they found was remarkable and consistent. When the patients were aware of the treatment and expected to receive the benefit, the treatment was highly effective. But when they weren’t, that same drug, that same pill and that same procedure was blunted and in some cases not even effective at all.

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So I read about these studies when I was a student at Harvard University and at the time I was heavily immersed into the literature on the placebo effect. And the more I read, the more I started thinking about the true nature of placebos.

So what is the placebo effect really? Well, most people discount the placebo effect as just some magical response to some fake pill or some FO procedure but that’s not what the placebo effect is. The placebo effect is not about the FO pill or the sugar pill or the fake procedure. What the placebo effect really is, is a powerful robust and consistent demonstration of the ability of our mindsets — in this case, the expectation to heal, to recruit healing properties in the body.

So what is a mindset? A mindset is quite literally a setting of the mind, it’s a lens or a frame of mind through which we view the world, we simplify, the infinite number of potential interpretations at any given moment. Now the ability to simplify our world through our mindsets is a natural part of being human. But what I want to suggest to you today is that these mindsets are not inconsequential, and instead they play a dramatic role in determining our health and our well-being.

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