What Are the Benefits of a New Placebo Language?

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This article examines three common strategies for dealing with the problems generated by the terms placebo and "placebo effect." These strategies are to redefine, to reconceptualize, and to eliminate our placebo language. The promise of these strategies is that a new language for talking about placebo phenomena may deliver clinical, ethical, and methodological advances. However, the nature and impact of these advances is rarely explored in detail. This article surveys some of the promised benefits of new terms such as "meaning response" and "contextual healing." The benefits are broadly similar across these strategies, but while they allow for clearer descriptions of phenomena and wider appreciation of the contextual aspects of medical practice, the open challenge for these strategies is not just to promise, but to show, the practical significance of their approaches to understanding placebo phenomena.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-411
Number of pages11
JournalPerspectives in Biology and Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


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