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Transforming Water: Social Influence Moderates Psychological, Physiological, and Functional Response to a Placebo Product

Crum, Alia J.; Phillips, Damon J.; Goyer, J. Parker; Akinola, Modupe; Higgins, Edward Tory

This paper investigates how social influence can alter physiological, psychological, and functional responses to a placebo product and how such responses influence the ultimate endorsement of the product. Participants consumed a product, “AquaCharge Energy Water,” falsely-labeled as containing 200 mg of caffeine but which was actually plain spring water, in one of three conditions: a no social influence condition, a disconfirming social influence condition, and a confirming social influence condition. Results demonstrated that the effect of the product labeling on physiological alertness (systolic blood pressure), psychological alertness (self-reported alertness), functional alertness (cognitive interference), and product endorsement was moderated by social influence: participants experienced more subjective, physiological and functional alertness and stronger product endorsement when they consumed the product in the confirming social influence condition than when they consumed the product in the disconfirming social influence condition. These results suggest that social influence can alter subjective, physiological, and functional responses to a faux product, in this case transforming the effects of plain water.

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Academic Units
Psychology
Business
Published Here
December 14, 2016
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