Cover: The Placebo Effect: An Interdisciplinary Exploration, from Harvard University PressCover: The Placebo Effect in PAPERBACK

The Placebo Effect

An Interdisciplinary Exploration

Edited by Anne Harrington

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Product Details


$40.00 • £32.95 • €36.00

ISBN 9780674669864

Publication Date: 03/15/1999


272 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

3 line illustrations

Mind/Brain/Behavior Initiative


This book, drawing on contributions from fields as diverse as cultural anthropology, religion, pharmacology and molecular biology, reviews the roles of placebos in history and discusses the difficulties in making sense of them. At a time when quackery costs the nation an estimated $30 billion a year, such research couldn’t be more timely.—Peter Gorner, The Chicago Tribune

The Placebo Effect helps to explain why medicine appears to be some way off relinquishing the certainty of faith for the uncertainty of science… This edited collection of reviews…repays reading for the nuggets of insight it gives into health care and its as yet not-so scientific underpinnings.—John Galloway, Nature

To understand the placebo effect is to grasp simultaneously the success and the failure of medicine. This yin-yang comes through clearly in The Placebo Effect, which is based on the proceedings of a conference at Harvard University in late 1994. The speakers and discussants were all experts. Their charge at the conference, according to one participant, was ‘to create some destabilization of current thinking with respect to placebo effects.’ In this the text succeeds admirably… The power and the prevalence of placebo effects should interest any healer, and so should this book. From it one will learn that ultimately the placebo effect cannot be understood, for once we discover some detail of its mechanism, that knowledge will no longer be considered a placebo effect.The Lancet

This book is based on a conference at Harvard University in December 1994, sponsored by the Harvard Mind, Brain, Behavior Interfaculty Initiative. It brought under one roof some of the leading authorities on placebo and placebo effects, giving many of the chapters the unique quality of coming straight from the ‘the horse’s mouth.’ The placebo has become a familiar concept among biomedical researchers and practitioners since it became a prerequisite in randomized, controlled trials in the middle of this century. Yet the state of knowledge about the placebo effect in phenomenological terms…and as a neurobiologic construct…is still inadequate… This book highlights and aims at interdisciplinary dialogue… It will make fascinating reading for clinicians, neurobiologists, and students, as well as for philosophers and ethicists. More specifically, the book should be considered by those involved in all aspects of clinical pharmacology and therapeutics.—Gideon Koren, The New England Journal of Medicine

The concluding section [of The Placebo Effect] is almost too rich with ideas to be digested in a single session… As Anne Harrington states in her well-written introduction, the conference [on which The Placebo Effect was based] ended with no consensus, but it had given scientists and humanists the opportunity ‘to stretch in ways that promised to leave none of the parties involved in the undertaking unchanged.’ [The Placebo Effect] may offer [its] readers a similar opportunity.—Marcia Meldrum, Isis

The book is well worth reading for those with an interest in the subject. It is thought provoking and in many respects extraordinary.—E. Ernst, Fact: Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies

The Placebo Effect…brings together some of the leading authorities to describe the state of the field, as it appears from their several disciplinary perspectives, and to outline future directions for research.—David Harley, Medical History

This book sets out to show 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.The Therapist

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