Sugar pills, injections of nothing — studies show that, more often than you’d expect, placebos really work. At TEDMED, magician Eric Mead does a trick to prove that, even when you know something’s not real, you can still react as powerfully as if it is. (Warning: This talk is not suitable for viewers who are disturbed by needles or blood.)

Why you should listen:

As a child, Eric Mead says that he had a typical interest in magic. However, by the time he was a teenager, his interest had grown to a full-fledged obsession. “Here I am having been a professional magician for more than 25 years, and I often feel as if I’m barely scratching the surface of where the art can go and where I might one day take it.”  Mead shows us the ability of the mind to influence the body.

Who is he:

Magician Eric Mead began his career performing street magic, when he was offered a job as “Magic Bartender” at the Tower Comedy/Magic Bar owned by John Denver. Working at the bar, as well as private parties and comedy clubs, he became well-known in the industry and went on to perform one of the most memorable pieces in The Aristocrats.

Mead is also known as the author of Tangled Web, a collection of magic and mentalism taken from his personal repertoire


1. What does Mead’s knife trick have to do with the placebo effect?

2. Do you think placebos are effective in treatment of mental illness?

3. In what ways do you think placebos can be used effectively?

4. Can you think of a time you have experienced, or have witnessed someone else experience, the placebo effect?

The magic of the placebo with Eric Mead


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