HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Albert J. Weatherhead III and Richard W. Weatherhead Professor of Public Management, Emeritus


In 1952, Norman Vincent Peale, a Protestant minister, published “The Power of Positive Thinking.” The book stayed on the New York Times best-sellers list for 186 weeks. I assumed it was out of print by now, but to my surprise, the book remains at about 8,000 on’s top-sellers list and ranks No. 51 under Spirituality/Inspirational and 62 under Mental Health/Happiness. I remember thinking when I was younger that it was a stupid, misleading book because it suggested that simply wishing success on yourself could make it so. I was wrong. There is a large and growing body of research on the so-called placebo effect — the measurable impact a positive mind-set has on physical or performance states. The phrase comes from the old research finding that giving people a sugar pill for a malady will often reduce symptoms of the illness, and sometimes even help the person recover as long as he or she believes the pill to be a medication.


Kelman, Steven. "Productivity and the Placebo Effect." Federal Computer Week, October 10, 2012.