Julie Ayre

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The effect of treatment choice on the placebo effect and placebo-induced side effects for sleep difficulty

Bachelor of Psychology (Hons I), 2013

School of Psychology, University of Sydney



My Honours project investigated whether providing people with a choice between two medications impacts on the strength of the placebo effect and placebo side effects. Participants who had trouble sleeping reported on the quality of their sleep at baseline and at one-week follow-up; a control group received no treatment, another group received (placebo) capsules with no choice about the type, and a third group of participants were offered a choice between two (placebo) capsules that differed only in their colour and side effect warnings. Although there was some evidence of improved sleep quality (placebo effect) for participants who received the placebo capsules compared to controls, there was no evidence of placebo side effects, and the choice of medications had no impact on the placebo effect.

Since completing Honours, I worked on the Australian Burden of Disease study which aims to assess and compare the relative impact of different diseases and injuries on the Australian population. This included a separate extension project on the health impacts of intimate partner violence. I have also helped develop health indicators for the second Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation. These will be mapped to investigate geographic patterns in the variability of healthcare in Australia.

I will soon be commencing a PhD with the School of Public Health, investigating self-management of diabetes for people with low health literacy.