Skip to main navigation menu Skip to main content Skip to site footer

Narrative Review

Vol. 11 No. 2 (2008)

Placebo: Feeling Better, Getting Better, and the Problems of Mind and Body

  • John F. Kihlstrom
November 7, 2020


Over its history, medicine has vacillated between acknowledging placebo effects as important and trying to overcome them. Placebos are controversial, in part, because they appear to challenge a biocentric view of the scientific basis of medical practice. At the very least, research should distinguish between the effects of placebos on subjective and objective endpoints. Theoretically, placebos are of interest because they underscore the other side of the mind-body problem: how mental states can affect physical conditions.


  1. Pepper, O. H. A note on the placebo. American J Pharmacology.1994; 117; 409.
  2. Beecher, H. K. The powerful placebo. JAMA. 1995;159, 1602-1606.
  3. Benedetti, F. Mechanisms of placebo and placebo-related effects across diseases and treatments. Ann Rev Pharm Tox. 2007; 48, 33-60.
  4. Harrington, A. The placebo effect: An interdisciplinary exploration. Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press. 1997
  5. Harrington, A. The cure within: A history of mind-body medicine. New York: Norton.2008
  6. Price, D. D., Finniss, D. G., & Benedetti, F. A comprehensive review of the placebo effect: recent advances and current thought. Annual Review of Psychology. 2008; 59: 565-590.
  7. Shapiro, A. K., & Shapiro, E. The powerful placebo: From ancient priest to modern physician. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University press. 1997
  8. Cousins, N. Anatomy of an illness (as perceived by the patient). NEJM. 1976; 295, 1458-1463.
  9. Hrobjartsson, A., & Gotzsche, P. C. Core belief in powerful effects of placebo interventions is in conflict with no evidence of important effects in a large systematic review. Advances in Mind-Body Medicine. 2001; 17: 312-318.
  10. Hrobjartsson A, Gotzsche P.C. Is the placebo powerless? An analysis of clinical trials comparing placebo with no treatment. NEJM. 2001;344(21):1594-1602.
  11. Kihlstrom, J. F. Expecting that a treatment will be given, when it won't, and knowing that a treatment is being given, when it is [Commentary on "Open versus hidden medical treatments: The patient's knowledge about a therapy affects therapy outcome" by F. Benedetti, G. Maggi, L. Lopiano, M. Lanotte, I. Rainero, S. Vighetti, & A Pollo]. Prevention & Treatment. 2003; 6: Article 4.
  12. Evans, F. J The placebo response in pain reduction. In J. J. Bonica (Ed.), Advances in Neurology. New York: Raven. 1974; 289-296
  13. Waber, R. L., & al. Commercial features of placebo and therapeutic efficacy. JAMA, 2008; 299: 1-16-1017.
  14. Wampold, B. E., Minami, T., Tierney, S. C., Baskin, t. W., & Bhati, K. S. The placebo is powerful: Estimating placebo effects in medicine and psychotherapy from randomized clinical trials. J Clin Psych. 2005; 61; 835-854.
  15. Kirsch, I., Moore, T. J., Scoboria, A., & Nicholls, S. S. The emperor's new drugs: An analysis of antidepressant medication data submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration. Prevention & Treatment. 2002; 5: Article 23.
  16. Kirsch, I., & Sapirstein, G. Listening to Prozac but hearing placebo: A meta-analysis of antidepressant medication. Prevention & Treatment. 1998; 1: Article 2a.
  17. Benedetti, F., Maggi, G., Lopiano, L., Rainero, I., Vighetti, S., & Pollo, A. Open versus hidden medical treatments: The patient's knowledge about a therapy affects the therapy outcome. Prevention & Treatment. 2003; 6.
  18. Marshall, B. J., & Warren, J. R. Unidentified curved bacilli in the stomach of patients with gastritis and peptic ulceration. Lancet. 1984; 1: 1311.
  19. Hyman, S. E. Another one bites the dust: An infectious origin for peptic ulcers. Harvard Review of Psychiatry. 1994; 1; 294-295.
  20. Nomura, A., Stemmermann, G. N., Chyou, P.-H., Perez-Perez, G. I., & Blaser, M. J.. Helicobacter pylori infection and the risk for duodenal and gastric ulceration. Annals of Internal Medicine. 1994; 120: 977-981.
  21. Overmier, J. B., & Murison, R. Animal models reveal the "psych" in the psychosomatics of ulcers. Current Directions in Psychological Science. 1997; 6(6): 180-184.


Download data is not yet available.

Similar Articles

1 2 3 4 > >> 

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.