Expectations, Effects, and Explanation
Quest University Canada
Continuing Studies and Executive Education
This case study uses the example of ionic foot baths to examine how placebo treatments can affect our health and wellness. Inspired by a student’s real visit to a spa, the story begins with a description of the experience of an ionic foot bath, and then debunks the chemical explanation given by the spa as to how the foot bath works. The case then introduces placebo treatments and the placebo effect, and discusses how placebos can affect our health. The case was developed for use in an undergraduate general biology or neuroscience class, but it could also be used in a first-year chemistry class and would also be suitable for a course in human biology, general biology, the scientific method, critical thinking, health sciences, or consumer health.
- Describe the causes of the phenomena observed during an ionic foot bath treatment.
- Propose plausible hypotheses to explain the effects of the treatment on the human body.
- Critically review claims about the mechanism of action of ionic foot baths.
- Analyze data presented in tabular form from a research study.
- Describe a placebo and its effects on the outcome of any medical treatment.
KeywordsIonic foot bath; electrolytic cell; experimental design; scientific literacy; critical thinking; evidence based medicine; placebo effect
Topical AreasScientific argumentation, Scientific method, Pseudoscience
Educational LevelHigh school, Undergraduate lower division
Type / MethodsDiscussion, Interrupted
Subject HeadingsBiology (General) | Neuroscience | Medicinal Chemistry | Medicine (General) | Psychology | Science (General) |