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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 16  |  Issue : 69  |  Page : 116--122

Possible psychological mechanisms for "wind turbine syndrome". On the windmills of your mind


King's College London, Department of Psychological Medicine, London, United Kingdom

Correspondence Address:
Dr. G James Rubin
Department of Psychological Medicine, King's College London, Cutcombe Road, London SE5 9RJ
United Kingdom
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Source of Support: Rubin and Wessely Received Payment to Review this Literature as Part of a Legal Case Relating to the Installation of Wind Turbines., Conflict of Interest: Rubin and Wessely Received Payment to Review this Literature as Part of a Legal Case Relating to the Installation of Wind Turbines.


DOI: 10.4103/1463-1741.132099

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Throughout history, people have suffered from physical symptoms that they have attributed to modern technologies. Often these attributions are strongly held, but not supported by scientific evidence. Symptoms attributed to the operation of wind turbines (called "wind turbine syndrome" by some) may fit into this category. Several psychological mechanisms might account for symptoms attributed to wind turbines. First, the "nocebo effect" is a well-recognized phenomenon in which the expectation of symptoms can become self-fulfilling. Second, misattribution of pre-existing or new symptoms to a novel technology can also occur. Third worry about a modern technology increases the chances of someone attributing symptoms to it. Fourth, social factors, including media reporting and interaction with lobby groups can increase symptom reporting. For wind turbines, there is already some evidence that a nocebo effect can explain the attributed symptoms while misattribution seems likely. Although worry has not been directly studied, research has shown that people who are annoyed by the sound that turbines produce are more likely to report symptoms and that annoyance is associated with attitudes toward the visual impact of wind farms and whether a person benefits economically from a wind farm. Given that these mechanisms may be sufficient to account for the experiences reported by sufferers, policy-makers, clinicians and patients should insist on good-quality evidence before accepting a more direct causal link.






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