The Magic Feather Effect: Alternative Medicine and the Surprising Power of Belief

By Megan Thomas

On reading the title, you might assume the author is promoting alternative medicine and the power of belief. That’s not necessarily the case, but she’s also not trashing it.

Melanie Warner went into this science book with a hunger to explore everything from the placebo effect to spiritual healing practices, and did so with fair and rigorous research. She approached the world of Tai Chi and energy healing with an open mind and was always willing to be presented with information that had the potential to change her thinking. Ultimately, it seems that Melanie’s major disappointment through the writing of this book is the underlying lack of scientific rigour applied to the results which many believers live by – or rather, the lack of any desire to prove anything on a larger scale than an anecdotal one.


I’ve always been fascinated by the placebo effect and how powerful it can be, which was first sparked by reading Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, so I particularly enjoyed the chapters that discussed the science behind the phenomenon itself rather than simply its use in other experiments.

The Magic Feather Effect is named in reference the feather from Dumbo, which he thought was the magical reason he could fly, but it was actually just a normal feather and his belief which made him fly (spoiler alert… those are meant to come before, aren’t they?) It is unquestionably well-researched and thorough while still offering engaging personal commentary and being written for laymen like myself to lap up.

This is Melanie’s second book, and I’m excited to share with you my review of her first book, Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over The American Meal. Head over to Babble to listen to my interview with Melanie about both her books and her career in business and science journalism.

BUY THE BOOK: Waterstones | Book DepositoryAmazon
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