The meaning response

The meaning response via mind hacks

Mind Hacks

I am currently reading Daniel Moerman’s “Meaning, medicine and the ‘placebo effect'”. As well as containing many interesting asides, the book discusses what is at the heart of the so-called placebo effect: patients’ response to the meaning of their treatment. Moerman calls this the ‘meaning response’. This response to meaning explains why two inert pills produce more cures than one inert pill, and why inert injections are even more effective (because “everybody knows” that injections are more powerful than pills). But importantly, it is possible to show that doctors are as important in producing the meaning response as patients. Gracely et al (1985) looked at the effect of placebo on pain in patients having their wisdom teeth extracted. The study was set up as a standard double-blind (neither the doctor nor the patient knows if the patient is getting a real medicine or an inert placebo), with the possibilities…

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