Power UnBalance

I love watching infomercials, but always wonder how much the sellers are exaggerating.  Take this infomercial for the “Power Balance” bracelet, which is claimed to increase balance and coordination:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_Ow-ZGMy5o

Now, go to this link which shows you how it actually works:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Piu75P8sxTo

Make sure to watch the whole thing, because they give away the “trick” near the middle.  It is useful to go back afterward and watch the first one, now that you know the trick.

The real question, then, is: what should you do if you know a friend is considering buying this, or worse, has already bought it?  When I showed these videos in my class, I was told that the football team had purchased them already.  When some of my students presented them with the evidence, their response was that they didn’t care whether it worked or not.

Astounding!

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About brianblais

I am a professor of Science and Technology at Bryant University in Smithfield, RI, and a research professor in the Institute for Brain and Neural Systems, Brown University. My research is in computational neuroscience and statistics. I teach physics, meteorology, astonomy, theoretical neuroscience, systems dynamics, artificial intelligence and robotics. My book, "Theory of Cortical Plasticity" (World Scientific, 2004), details a theory of learning and memory in the cortex, and presents the consequences and predictions of the theory. I am an avid python enthusiast, and a Bayesian (a la E. T. Jaynes), and love music.
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2 Responses to Power UnBalance

  1. Anonymous says:

    Is this real and not like the ones from eBay. I have seen some that have even have wrong spelling on them!. I have bought a Power Balance band from the site Performance Bands. These Power Balance wristbands seem to be pretty good to me and I don't care if they call it a placebo as any help I can get I will take! I obviously can't get that extra I need on the pitch without some help, and I'd be happy to pay some cash if I think it's doing me good.

    A (quite drastic) example: If you had cancer and had given up or finding it hard to fight, and someone gave you something that you thought was going to help you, surely that's going to give you a push mentally even if physically it's doing nothing at all?

  2. bblais says:

    This is the real deal, which at best does nothing. “I don't care if they call it a placebo as any help I can get I will take!” actually, placebo only works for the subjective perception of pain, and doesn't actually apply to any other domain like increasing your agility or strength. So, at best, it does nothing. At worst, it keeps you from investigating legitimate treatment or supports a company that keeps other people from investigating legitimate treatment.

    Your quite drastic example has some merit, but is not applicable here either. If I were in a life/death situation, and had exhausted all the known treatments, and someone offered me something that might work but for which there was little evidence for, I might consider it. However, in this case, the product is not helping in a life/death situation – it merely claims to improve your balance (which it doesn't). Further, there is evidence that this product *doesn't* work. Even in your drastic example situation, I would not consider a product that has been shown not to work.

    I had a friend who died from cancer, because she pursued many dubious treatments (from acupuncture, chiropractic, and homeopathy) and it delayed her looking for legitimate treatment. Although most cases aren't this serious, the type of thinking that is involved in the common cases like these bracelets leads to the extreme cases more often than we should tolerate. The price of ignorance and denial is too high for society to pay.

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