I gave a talk today on the results of some impressive clinical studies showing the powerful effects of the placebo effect. My goal was to reduce highly technical information into something that could be digested and interesting to a nontechnical audience. After the talk I began to re-analyze my speech and do critical evaluation of its success.
I realized that I had committed the most egregious error in presenting science to the public. That is, I forgot to explain why the science was important to THEM! I explained the studies, the theory behind placebo, ethics and some of the biological findings. However, what the audience wanted to hear was what do these results mean to them financially, medically, or socially? Unless we explain the direct connection of science to the audience, the message is lost immediately and has no lasting impact.
Today I could have told them about how the placebo effect is altering the way we look at the mind-body connection, and how it might mean improvements in medical care. Learning more about the placebo effect might even mean dramatic savings in the costs of medication and medical care. Now, those are topics of interest to others…better health care and saving money!