Women's Experiences as Members of Attention Control and Experimental Intervention Groups in a Randomized Controlled Trial

Claudia C. Beal, Alexa Stuifbergen, Deborah Volker, Heather Becker


Attention control groups are often used in research testing the efficacy of psychosocial and behavioural interventions in order to control for placebo effects. The authors conducted a descriptive qualitative study to investigate how participants viewed their experiences in attention control and experimental intervention groups following a randomized controlled trial for women with fibromyalgia syndrome. Moderately structured interviews were conducted with 18 women (12 from the experimental intervention group and 6 from the attention control group). Members of the control group reported some benefits but few behavioural changes as a result of participating in the RCT, and some participants expressed disappointment at not receiving the intervention. Perceptions of changes in attitudes towards fibromyalgia syndrome and behaviours reported by the intervention group appear to be consistent with the theory underlying the intervention. Possible placebo effects identified in both groups include negative and positive social interactions with other participants.

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