Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

From Traditional Medicine to Witchcraft: Why Medical Treatments Are Not Always Efficacious

By Mark M. Tanaka, Jeremy R. Kendal and Kevin N. Laland

Abstract

Complementary medicines, traditional remedies and home cures for medical ailments are used extensively world-wide, representing more than US$60 billion sales in the global market. With serious doubts about the efficacy and safety of many treatments, the industry remains steeped in controversy. Little is known about factors affecting the prevalence of efficacious and non-efficacious self-medicative treatments. Here we develop mathematical models which reveal that the most efficacious treatments are not necessarily those most likely to spread. Indeed, purely superstitious remedies, or even maladaptive practices, spread more readily than efficacious treatments under specified circumstances. Low-efficacy practices sometimes spread because their very ineffectiveness results in longer, more salient demonstration and a larger number of converts, which more than compensates for greater rates of abandonment. These models also illuminate a broader range of phenomena, including the spread of innovations, medical treatment of animals, foraging behaviour, and self-medication in non-human primates

Topics: Research Article
Publisher: Public Library of Science
OAI identifier: oai:pubmedcentral.nih.gov:2664922
Provided by: PubMed Central
Download PDF:
Sorry, we are unable to provide the full text but you may find it at the following location(s):
  • http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.g... (external link)
  • Suggested articles

    Citations

    1. (1983). A clinical and experimental study of tendon injury, healing and treatment in the horse.
    2. (1975). A first course in stochastic processes.
    3. (2007). A qualitative investigation into knowledge, beliefs, and practices surrounding mastitis in subsaharan Africa: what implications for vertical transmission of HIV?
    4. (1992). A theory of fads, fashion, custom and cultural changes as informational cascades.
    5. (2004). An experimental study of leaf swallowing in captive chimpanzees: insights into the origin of a self-medicative behavior and the role of social learning.
    6. (2003). Animal Innovation.
    7. (2005). Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebocontrolled trials of homoeopathy and allopathy.
    8. (2005). Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine: a comparative overview.
    9. (2002). Coevolution of pathogens and cultural practices: a new look at behavioral heterogeneity in epidemics.
    10. (1996). Complementary medicine.
    11. (2006). Contamination of mercury in tongkat Ali hitam herbal preparations.
    12. (1981). Cultural transmission and evolution: a quantitative approach.
    13. (1994). Cultural transmission in pigeons is affected by the number of tutors and bystanders present.
    14. (2006). Cultural transmission of ethnobotanical knowledge in a rural community of northwestern Patagonia,
    15. (1985). Culture and the evolutionary process.
    16. (1999). Cultures in chimpanzees.
    17. (2007). Degrees in homeopathy slated as unscientific.
    18. (2006). Development of activesafety surveillance system for traditional Chinese medicine: an empirical study in treating climacteric women.
    19. (2003). Drift as a mechanism for cultural change: An example from baby names.
    20. (2000). Evolutionary ecology of human life history.
    21. (2006). Lead poisoning from traditional Indian medicines.
    22. (1998). Learning from the behavior of others: Conformity, fads and informational cascades.
    23. (1979). Mathematical population genetics,
    24. (1992). On the nature and evolution of imitation in the animal kingdom: reappraisal of a century of research.
    25. (2006). Phytochemical and pharmacological study of roots and leaves of Guiera senegalensis JF Gmel (combretaceae).
    26. (2006). Phytochemicals from traditional medicinal plants used in the treatment of diarrhoea: Modes of action and effects on intestinal function.
    27. (2002). Potential disadvantages of using socially acquired information.
    28. (2004). Random drift and culture change. Proc Roy Soc Lond
    29. (2006). Regular rates of popular culture change reect random copying.
    30. (1982). Sexual selection and the evolution of female choice.
    31. (1994). Sexual selection with a culturally transmitted mating preference.
    32. (1997). Shoaling generates social learning of foraging information in guppies.
    33. (1989). Social inuences on the selection of a proteinsufficient diet by Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus).
    34. (1994). Social learning in animals: categories and mechanisms. Biol Rev 69: 207–131. Medicine to Witchcraft PLoS
    35. (2005). Survey questions safety of alternative medicine.
    36. (2004). The cultural wealth of nations.
    37. (1998). The evolution of conformist transmission and the emergence of between-group differences.
    38. (2001). The evolution of prestige: freely conferred deference as a mechanism for enhancing the benefits of cultural transmission.
    39. (2003). The new face of traditional Chinese medicine.
    40. (1976). The Selfish Gene.
    41. (2006). Traditional healers in Nigeria: Perception of cause, treatment and referral practices for severe malaria.
    42. (2004). When in Rome… An evolutionary perspective on conformity.
    43. (1983). Where there is no doctor.
    44. (2002). WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2002–2005. World Health Organization Geneva.
    45. (1994). Why we get sick: The new science of Darwinian Medicine.

    To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.