Abbiamo parlato di Nicholas Humphrey su questo blog qualche tempo fa, recensendo il suo Seeing Red, che avevo trovato molto interessante.
Ora Humphrey sviluppa su Edge una riflessione molto stimolante, secondo me: che l’effetto placebo “funziona” perché rimuove un “divieto” e “consente” una sorta di auto-cura, rassicurandoci che i suoi benefici eccedono i costi e che ci possiamo fidare del guaritore. Allo stesso modo, argomenta Humphrey, solo di recente l’ambiente culturale ha consentito alle personalità di uscire dai loro gusci e di sfuggire al conformismo, liberando enormi risorse di creatività.
Andate avanti da soli, cliccando sul link qui sotto. Ma poi tornate qui, perché ho un’altra cosa da mostrarvi.
Now, when people are cured by placebo medicine, they are in reality curing themselves. But why should this have become an available option late in human evolution, when it wasn’t in the past.
I realized it must be the result of a trick that has been played by human culture. The trick isto persuade sick people that they have a “license” to get better, because they’rein the hands of supposed specialists who know what’s best for them and can offer practical help and reinforcements. And the reason this works is that it reassures people—subconsciously —that the costs of self-cure will be affordable and that it’s safe to let down their guard. So health has improved because of a cultural subterfuge. It’s been a pretty remarkable development.
I’m now thinking about a larger issue still. If placebo medicine can induce people to release hidden healing resources, are there other ways in which the cultural environment can “give permission” to people to come out of their shells and to do things they wouldn’t have done in the past? Can cultural signals encourage people to reveal sides of their personality or faculties that they wouldn’t have dared to reveal in the past? Or for that matter can culture block them? There’s good reason to think this is in fact our history.
Go back 10 or 20,000 years ago. Eccentricity would not have been tolerated. Unusual intelligence would not have been tolerated. Even behaving “out of character” would not have been tolerated. People were expected to conform, and they did conform, because they picked up the cues from their environment about the right and proper—the adaptive—way to behave. In response to cultural signals people were in effect policing their own personality.
Alla fine del suo intervento su Edge, Humphrey cita un dibattito con Richard Dawkins in cui aveva difeso l’efficacia dell’effetto placebo a fronte dello scetticismo del suo interlocutore. Il video è un po’ lunare, ma interessantissimo. Il brain-storming di due grandi pensatori non convenzionali, pronti ad ascoltarsi e a cambiare idea.