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Power Balance Wristbands


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I'm not sure if this is the right sub-forum for this - the incident that inspired this thread happened in Beijing, though the wristbands are/were available worldwide.


I was shopping for gifts today and I noticed a stall selling "Power Balance Wristbands". I wasn't in too much of a hurry, and was in the mood to practice some Chinese, so I decided to chat up the salesman. I picked a leaflet and took a glance - it included descriptions of experiments to experience (体验) the power of the wristbands, pictures of celebrities wearing them, and a blurb on the back making vague claims about what it could do. The main claim was that it improves balance (平衡) and as a result athletic ability at basically any sport. As far as I could see, there was nothing in the leaflet about how it was supposed to work. I asked the salesman what the scientific basis (科学根据) for them was, and he said something which I didn't fully understand (possibly in part due to obscurantism) about voltage (电压) and ions (离子). I asked him if magnets (磁铁) were involved, as that was the claim I seemed to remember from seeing them on sale in England, and he said no.


I asked him if any actual scientific studies had been done on them, and he said he wasn't sure, but he was sure some scientists had claimed they worked. I asked him which scientists, and he wasn't able to provide names. At this point, however, he asked me if I wanted to experience the effect for myself, and so I decided to humour him. That's where it got interesting.


The experiment involved standing on my left leg, holding out my right arm, and resisting as he applied pressure in a downwards direction. The first time was without the wristband, and predictably I toppled. The second time was wearing the wristband, and there was a considerable difference - I was able to balance without any problem. It seemed that he was still applying the same pressure in the same way, and I'm fairly sure I resisted equally strongly.


I suggested that it could have been a placebo effect (安慰剂效应*), which of course he denied, and to be honest this explanation didn't satisfy me either. I assume that in order for a placebo effect to take place, the person in question has to be at least somewhat convinced that the product will be of use. In this case, however, the opposite was true. In the end, I just muttered “有意思” and left. I wasn't about to accuse him of being a 骗子 with no evidence or even an inkling of how the scam worked.


So, that leaves the question, what did happen? Is there a big difference in the difficulty of remaining standing when different parts of the arm are pressed, for instance? I didn't really pay attention to this variable at the time, so it seems possible. Alternatively, does being prepared from trying the experiment one time make such a large difference the second time around as to make it a piece of cake? Or is there another explanation?



*I'm not sure “安慰剂” was actually the correct word to use here. In fact, initially he didn't understand the word, which isn't particularly surprising - I often find that Chinese people don't know certain semi-technical words in their own language when native English speakers almost invariably know the English equivalent, and I expect the same is true vice-versa. More to the point, though, the kind of placebo effect in question doesn't have anything to do with relieving symptoms, so “安慰” doesn't seem appropriate here. Is this word used generally for all types of placebo effects, or only for those which are to do with relief of symptoms?

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I've seen something similar. Years ago I was in a shop in Taiwan with a few friends, I forgot what gadgets exactly the lady was selling, but it was all good for your 气. She had my friend press middle finger and thumb together and then tried to pull them apart; then she asked my friend to keep her cellphone in her other hand and again did the same thing. (In case that's not too clear: my friend was the one holding the phone and pressing her fingers together.) My friend was surprised to notice that she really did have less strength in her fingers when she was holding the phone. The lady wasn't even directly trying to sell something, at this point she was just showing us how bad cellphones were for the 气. I have to say, ever since I have avoided keeping my phone in my pocket or under my pillow.

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I translate placebo as 心理暗示. It is a term commonly understood by Chinese.


Do people understand the concept of placebo based on this translation ? I forget the words I learned for placebo now, but I am sure it was different.... and also not effective in conversation regarding unicorn piss and the likes

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@tooironic: I actually turned the above post into a speech that I gave in class (we're required to give a number of short speeches throughout the semester on any subject we choose), and the phrase the teacher suggested in place of “安慰剂” was indeed “心理暗示”. However, I repeated this phrase to my Chinese girlfriend, and she said she couldn't work out what it might refer to without context (nor indeed with “安慰剂效应”). Also, is “心理暗示” really the same concept? I feel like that would refer to a deliberate act of deception through covert psychological means, rather than an effect that occurs naturally due to belief in the efficacy of a product (regardless of whether or not there was any act of deception involved in the selling of said product).

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I tend to be rather open minded, but that's a lot of money for something that's just a scam. The placebo effect is rather strong, quite a bit stronger than people think it is, but in this case, it's not even that, it's an outright scam. Medicines that sell well like Paxil and Tylenol would never be legally sold in the US if they had to be approved now as they're just not a strong enough effect to beat the placebo. Tylenol itself is a rather egregious example due to the risk of liver damage that comes from taking even slight overdoses.


I've done a fair amount of dabbling in various healing arts that are arguably mainly about cultivating ones thoughts and I don't see any harm in it, provided you know when to see an actual doctor, but this sort of thing being done for profit and definitely not conveying any utility gets me steamed.

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