Open-Label Placebo Effects on Psychological and Physical Well-Being: A Conceptual Replication Study


  • Anne-Kathrin Bräscher Orcid
  • Ioanna-Evangelia Ferti
  • Michael Witthöft Orcid


Background: Contrary to traditional placebos, open-label placebos (OLP) abstain from deception, i.e., participants are openly informed to receive an inert substance. Studies in clinical and healthy samples evidence the efficacy of OLPs. This study aims to conceptually replicate and expand findings of a recent OLP study in healthy participants while implementing a within-subject design and daily instead of retrospective assessments. Additionally, the effect of a brand name on the medicine container is tested and possible predictors of the OLP effects are explored. Method: Healthy participants (N = 75) received OLP and no placebo for 5 days each (randomized sequence) and answered daily questionnaires on sleep quality, bodily symptoms, mental well-being, and psychological distress. The medicine container of half the participants had a brand name, the remaining did not. Different personality traits and situational factors were assessed. Results: Mental and physical well-being did not differ between OLP and control phase, i.e., overall, no OLP effect emerged. Contrast analysis indicated that an OLP effect emerged for sleep quality and psychological distress when no brand name was present. Further, an OLP effect emerged in persons with higher expectations for bodily symptoms (r = .23, p = .046) and psychological distress (r = .24, p = .037). Conclusions: Methodological differences to the original study are discussed as an explanation for the failure to induce overall OLP effects. Future studies should continue to replicate previous findings and determine the exact conditions of successful implementation of OLP effects in healthy as well as clinical samples.