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December 6, 1919


JAMA. 1919;73(23):1737-1740. doi:10.1001/jama.1919.02610490001001

The psychology of credulity is the main theme of this article—not credulity in general as applied to various religions, philosophies and political tenets-but credulity as related to the treatment and cure of disease, to the art and science of medicine. Why do people believe in "patent medicines," in all sorts of systems of healing, and quite generally also in doctors of medicine? Why do physicians often pin their faith to special methods and special medicaments? The general principles that govern faith, opinion, conviction, act also here; but an unusual factor in the field of medicine is the extraordinary complexity of the human body and mind. We often compare the organism to a machine; but even the most intricate machine is simplicity itself compared to the human body. On the one hand, we have metals and mechanics that almost any one can understand, adjust, repair and run; on the other, we