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WO YEARS AGO Leonie Koban, a mem­ber of Tor Wa­ger’s lab, tested the ef­fect of other be­liev­ers on a sub­ject’s ex­pe­ri­ences of pain. The re­searchers de­liv­ered a burn­ing sen­sa­tion to their sub­jects’ arms and asked them to rate how strong it was. The vol­un­teers also viewed a se­ries of hash marks rep­re­sent­ing how pre­vi­ous par­tic­i­pants had rated their pain. For the same stim­u­lus, the sub­jects re­ported feel­ing higher or lower lev­els of pain based on what they were told pre­vi­ous par­tic­i­pants had felt.

Tests of the sub­jects’ skin con­duc­tance re­sponses—in­vol­un­tary changes in how the body is con­duct­ing elec­tric-

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