A mere "symbol" of medicine--the sugar pill, saline injection, doctor in a white lab coat--the placebo nonetheless sometimes produces "real" results. Medical science has largely managed its discomfort with this phenomenon by discounting the placebo effect, subtracting it as an impurity in its data through double-blind tests of new treatments and drugs. This book is committed to a different perspective--namely, that the placebo effect is a "real" entity in its own right, one that has much to teach us about how symbols, settings, and human relationships literally get under our skin.
Anne Harrington's introduction and a historical overview by Elaine Shapiro and the late Arthur Shapiro, which open the book, review the place of placebos in the history of medicine, investigate the current surge in interest in them, and probe the methodological difficulties of saying scientifically just what placebos can and cannot do. Combining individual essays with a dialogue among writers from fields as far-flung as cultural anthropology and religion, pharmacology and molecular biology, the book aims to expand our ideas about what the placebo effect is and how it should be seen and studied. At the same time, the book uses the challenges and questions raised by placebo phenomena to initiate a broader interdisciplinary discussion about our nature as cultural animals: animals with minds, brains, and bodies that somehow manage to integrate "biology" and "culture," "mechanism" and "meaning," into a seamless whole.
from the publisher's website
Table of Contents
The Placebo: Is It Much Ado about Nothing?
Arthur K. Shapiro and Elaine Shapiro
Clinical Reflections on the Placebo Phenomenon
The Nocebo Phenomenon: Scope and Foundations
Robert A. Hahn
The Doctor as Therapeutic Agent: A Placebo Effect Research Agenda
Toward a Neurobiology of Placebo Analgesia
Howard L. Fields and Donald D. Price
The Contribution of Desire and Expectation to Placebo Analgesia: Implications for New Research Strategies
Donald D. Price And Howard L. Fields
The Role of Conditioning in Pharmacotherapy
Specifying Nonspecifics: Psychological Mechanisms of Placebo Effects
Placebo, Pain, and Belief: A Biocultural Model
David B. Morris
Placebo: Conversations at the Disciplinary Borders
Edited by Anne Harrington