Placebo Queues


Method = Omission

So far I’ve created 3 “Placebo Queues” in Newcastle, Uk and Stockholm, Sweden. A Placebo Queue is a queue that looks exactly like a queue, but is disfunctional in the fact that it has no reason; no goal. The people in the placebo queue are queueing just for the sheer pleasure of queueing.

Why create these queues with no reason? I am interested in if the passerby notices the error in the queue; if the queue creates a double take and gets one to question reality. A side-line to this is i’m interested in the amount of people it takes to create a queue as well as the behaviour of our queuers AND if any unsuspecting passerby actually joins the queue.

#01 – Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK

#02 – Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK

#03 – Stockholm, Sweden.

The results:
People were really quite curious of the “Bridge Queues.” The weather obviously was a major factor in people’s behaviour. Even so, the Stockholm Snow Queue got alot of laughs and even a few old ladies investigating if the sign in front of them said something about why they would be queueing. The queue with the fake leader, but real queuers, waited until a bus came then, realising the man was not queueing for the bus, all looked a bit bemused and made their way towards the bus. A few asked him what he was queuing for. The man said “no reason”.

Placebo Paraphernalia for Favouring Frustration and Prompting Play.


It seems likely that the mechanism of the placebo response is through the production of what are called endogenous endorphins (naturally produced opiate substances) produced by the person being treated. Endorphins are released whenever we feel good, whatever the reason.

In pain, which I know best, approximately one third of patients will have a significant improvement in painful symptoms when treated with an inactive agent. This effect is increased if the doctor states that the new agent is superb. There is also a substantial placebo effect in depression and skin conditions, but much less effect in clear disease entities such as bronchitis and heart conditions.

- Stephen Tyrer, Psychiatrist and my Dad

That’s my Dad. He’s one of the leading researchers into placebo’s and their effect on depression. Alot of my Dad’s research looks into creating a believable experience for his patients as instrumental to the effect of the placebo. Queue the Experience Designer and Birgit Mager’s quote that “Experiences cannot really be designed, only the conditions that lead to experiences”. I’m taking the placebo approach on board full throttle now and aim to test it in eliciting a playful response in the face of frustration (caused by error). I’ve been finding some great examples of placebo’s used in a playful way to cope with fear, confusion and behavioural control.