To make the research more authentic, doctors were given a dose of thermal pain as well as a fake electronic device that was said to relieve the pain. Researchers then monitored their brain activity using a functional resonance imaging machine that monitored each doctor’s brain activity.
Doctors were then asked to examine two patients, who were planted for the study in addition to completing a survey on how they empathized with their patients. Each doctor observed their patient during treatment through mirrors inside an fMRI scanner. Doctors then were asked to use either the fake electronic device to ease their patient’s pain or choose a control button that would result in no impact.
When the doctors saw patients relax after activating the device, the doctor’s brain activity associated with the placebo demonstrated that they felt rewarded.
Researchers found that doctors who empathized more with their patients experienced a more rewarding feeling when their patient was relieved.