A bracelet that restores balance?
July 13, 2007 2:06 PM   Subscribe

How in the world did this magical bracelet work?

This kind of snake-oil salesman just came into my shop to pimp out his product, which is some version of an ionized bracelet. The only thing he claimed it could do is help me balance. Obviosuly I was hugely skeptical, so he put me through two tests.

Test one, stand on one foot, hands outstrectched and empty. As soon as he exerted a little bit of pressure on one hand I couldn't help but tip that way. Then repeating the test holding the bracelet, he could not knock me off balance. I was keenly conscious of the amount of force he exerted, and trying to be aware if he or I did anything differently that could queer the results, but nothing like that was readily apparent.

Test two, feet close together, hands at my sides balled into fists and empty. He pulled down on one fist. I was able to counter at first but eventually he pulled so hard that he knocked me off balance. Then we repeated the test while I was holding the bracelet. This guy was literally hanging off my arm and I was able to keep my balance. Again, like in the first test there was nothing different about the way he conducted it that made me feel it was anything but legitimate.

I was pretty amazed and wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't undergone the tests first hand. He was either unable or unwilling to articulate what the bracelet was about, other than to drop the words "titanium", "shakras", and "quantum physics". I believe he was honestly ignorant about the forces at play. He was a salesman after all.

Does anybody have any clue what this could be about? I am totally willing to be convinced that some sort of physical placebo effect took place. But I'm equally likely to be convinced there's something to the magical bracelet.
posted by vito90 to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I am totally willing to be convinced that some sort of physical placebo effect took place. But I'm equally likely to be convinced there's something to the magical bracelet

... which is why it worked for you.

I have seen this demonstration done, and the key is to have an uninvolved third party in the room watching what is going on. The test subject (you, in this case) can be observed to try so much harder the second time... this is partly the result of suggestion, and partly because the first time you didn't know what to expect, but the second time you were prepared for it.

When I saw it done it was with a magnetic ball, but it could have been anything - although some mystical unexplainable hand-wavingly vague pseudoscience talk might increase the power of suggestion.
posted by foobario at 2:17 PM on July 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Was it the q-ray? It's supposed to restore your yin/yang balance, or something - I think the salesman just used an extra "balance" trick.
posted by Liosliath at 2:31 PM on July 13, 2007

The same "test" is used on several people to sell orthotics towards the middle of this infomercial, so you can be sure its a stupid trick.
posted by DanielDManiel at 2:44 PM on July 13, 2007

Response by poster: It wasn't a Q-ray, though I got the impression it's modeled on the same idea. It was a leather strap with a metallic piece, picture a wrist sized belt with ornate buckle.
posted by vito90 at 2:47 PM on July 13, 2007

Best answer: I was thinking more or less along the same lines as foobario - it's simply the power of suggestion coupled with previous experience.

Penn & Teller conducted a similar (albeit non-scientific) experiment to see how women reacted to a particular type of cologne. Women were all over the second of two twins to approach them.

It had nothing to do with the cologne and everything to do with their state of mind. Having been through the process with the guy once (they were told it was the same fellow both times), they felt at liberty to snuggle up him the second time around.

That aside, you can find out everything you ever wanted to know about the bracelet by visiting the official website.

The FAQ section is particularly illuminating:
How does the Balance Bracelet acquire its unique properties?

The bracelets are treated in a chamber where they absorb the properties that have created their world wide demand. The actual process is a proprietary one used for over 20 years.
They're manufactured by PermaHealth purveyors of such fine products as the Q-Link pendant, designed to "resonate life-supporting frequencies in the biofield".

And to protect your biofield while you sleep, they offer an incredibly advanced $239 alarm clock.

Here's to good health!
posted by aladfar at 2:47 PM on July 13, 2007

Response by poster: You know, I figured this was going to be the response I would get...and I am sure it is the power of suggestion that ultimately guided the test results. But I was in fact very skeptical during the test, and I am pretty certain that I concentrated very hard on how he conducted them.

Is there any legitimate scientific explanation at all? Even a farfetched hypothetical? Does anyone have experience with Phiten necklaces? Are these possibly in the same category?
posted by vito90 at 3:06 PM on July 13, 2007

Here is the other of the tests you talk about being perfomed to sell a "Quantum Hologram" card that is "designed to immediately increase cell-to-cell communications by tuning the body into a state of coherency and harmonic balance".

In this one the guy clearly pushes down on the other guy's arm closer to his elbow the second time, making it easier to resist the same applied force. That's got to be at least part of the trick. Also slight differences in the angle you apply force can make it much easier or hard to resist, and I would also figure that how quickly you apply the force would change the way a person reacts to it. Just guesses.
posted by DanielDManiel at 3:06 PM on July 13, 2007

What foobario said. You can verify it by trying the same thing on someone else, using a bracelet or whatever that you already know to be non-magical.
posted by equalpants at 3:19 PM on July 13, 2007

Best answer: Along with differences in the angle of force applied, the salesman squeezing harder would make it feel like he was pulling you with a lot more force than he actually was. I suspect the angle of force and location of the lever points was actually what was at work. There's way too much going on in a demonstration like this for a participant to notice what's different, so it's reasonable that you didn't see what the specific trick he used was.

There is no legitimate scientific explanation for a $5 piece of metal (or other material) drastically altering your biomechanics. If there were some effect here, you'd see every single elite athlete using them so they weren't destroyed by their stronger, faster, more balanced competitors. The devices are readily available and there'd be huge incentive to use them, so you have to ask yourself if it's more likely that they just don't do a goddamn thing, or that every single professional athlete has opted to pass on the huge competitive edge such a device would grant.
posted by 0xFCAF at 3:22 PM on July 13, 2007

Legitimate explanation? No.
posted by Loto at 3:22 PM on July 13, 2007

Sounds like carny tricks to me.
posted by rhizome at 3:27 PM on July 13, 2007

My fiance just walked in the door, and I assaulted her with a re-enactment of your salesman's "tests". I used a small bottle instead of a magic quantum bracelet, because all of mine are out being cleaned simultaneously cleaned and not cleaned.

I told her in advance that holding a small weight would improve her balance. Her results are your results. It's a trick.

I'm only one scientist, but I'm sure others here can join the cause and get you proof of the placebo effect.
posted by chudmonkey at 3:41 PM on July 13, 2007 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Damn. Would anyone like to sell me the Eiffel Tower? Please?

Thanks for all the responses.
posted by vito90 at 3:46 PM on July 13, 2007

Was it anything like:
Aikido's unbending arm?
posted by Comrade_robot at 4:04 PM on July 13, 2007

I was also going to mention aikido, in the context of your expectations controlling how your body responds. I've done so many exercises along these lines, and not just the unbendable arm, and can witness to how strong (and unconscious) the subtle change in body mechanics is.

Additionally, I know my teachers know tricks of subtle body manipulation like I'm sure this salesman employed, not that they'd actually use them, or it'd defeat the point of the learning exercise.
posted by artifarce at 4:22 PM on July 13, 2007

Incidentally, I know it's a trick because I've seen it before with something else -- a friend of mine went to a chiropractor who claimed that if he could tell if my friend were allergic to certain food items because her arm would be weaker if she held them.

She started telling me about this amazing chiropractor, and I blurted out, "Oh! Unbending arm!"

She never went back.
posted by Comrade_robot at 5:27 PM on July 13, 2007

I've heard of a similar con/test being pulled on some people I know. Sadly I couldn't bring myself to tell them.

In their case it was to do with food allergies. They were told to hold something like a bag of sugar, a donut, or something "unhealthy" and the same balance trick was done. Then they had to hold an apple or something "healthy" and then their balance was great.

They recited and repeated this experiment with us at Xmas while my opinion of them being idiots was rapidly enforced.
posted by wackybrit at 6:57 PM on July 13, 2007

Hah, funnily I sped-read this post, yet didn't read the last entry.. and I've said exactly the same thing as Comrade_robot. Sorry ;-) At least now I know the very same scam is international!
posted by wackybrit at 6:58 PM on July 13, 2007

He hypnotized you.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:35 PM on July 13, 2007

This is called "muscle testing", I first experienced it via chiropractic applied kineseology in 1977 very spooky because I was flat on my back he was pushing down my leg, then by me touching a spot near the hip, I could lift him off the floor, but I didn't buy the supplements being sold. A few years ago a woman brought her testing guy to the shop and they were "muscle testing" her for nail polish color, so there you go.
posted by hortense at 9:15 PM on July 13, 2007

Same concept as this askme
posted by goshling at 10:36 AM on July 14, 2007

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