What's a word for something done for no effect, but makes people feel good about themselves. For instance, in an argument about drug testing welfare recipients, if the facts say it doesn't actually do any good, but taxpayers feel better about having it there regardless, what word would sum that up?

  • "Window dressing" is a common phrase.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 9, 2015 at 21:40
  • And, of course, there's "phony", "pretense", "posture", "put-on", "facade", "dissembling", et al,
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 9, 2015 at 21:43
  • There's a specific word I'm looking for that I just can't seem to pull out of my brain. It's along the lines of pablum or panacea. Apr 9, 2015 at 21:47
  • Yeah, I'm getting an "aura" of a word that zeros in on the "feeling good about oneself" aspect, but it's not coming to me.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 9, 2015 at 22:10
  • 1
    Probably placebo effect: A mind over matter : improvement in the condition of a patient that occurs in response to treatment but cannot be considered due to the specific treatment used
    – user66974
    Apr 9, 2015 at 22:27

2 Answers 2


It's a palliative.

palliative adj

  1. serving to palliate; relieving without curing

n 2. something that palliates ...


  • DING DING DING DING!! Thank you Edwin Ashworth, that was exactly the word I was looking for! Apr 9, 2015 at 22:25
  • 1
    Great. But a shorter word (and more apt, I believe) is sop. i.word.com/idictionary/sop Apr 10, 2015 at 11:08
  • (1) If this were so, you should give this as an answer, not as a pejorative comment. But I wouldn't: (2) The definition and example at your M-W link 'a conciliatory or propitiatory bribe, gift, or gesture': <as a sop to the teachers' union for supporting his reelection campaign, the mayor promised to push for the abolition of the residency requirement> which matches Collins' definition 'a concession, bribe, etc, given to placate or mollify' does not exactly match OP's 'something done for no effect' / 'doesn't actually do any good'. Concessions may be very beneficial. Apr 10, 2015 at 16:46

Scepticism, if they don't believe what scientific studies have proved.

  • an attitude of doubting the truth of something (such as a claim or statement) MW

Hyprocrisy, if they realize drug testing is useless but they want it just the same.

  • The practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; falseness. TFD
  • Just to clarify further - it's not the belief in the idea that I'm trying to define - but the idea itself. It's called a "blank", like a trope, a pablum, a panacea, a placebo, etc. Apr 9, 2015 at 21:58

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