An older article, but nonetheless a good discussion of nocebo effects, sometimes thought of as the “evil twin” of placebo. Notice how the article plays with the idea of what is “real” vs. suggestion/sham/imagined. This real/not real distinction is at the heart of the curative imaginary and one of the interventions we aim make in exploring placebo and nocebo through a feminist/queer/disability lens.
Laurence Kirmayer describes the difficulties that placebos raise for biomedicine, where explanatory narratives are mechanistic in such as way as to demand direct chemical or physical impact to be seen as causal. Thinking through placebo and healing rituals he comes to the conclusion that “The term ‘placebo’ names a social situation not a substance.”
We agree! Here is another place where our concept of placebos as verbs gets further traction.
For more on Kirmayer’s work, see “Unpacking the placebo response: insights from ethnographic studies of healing” in Placebo Talks (eds. Raz & Harris), Oxford University Press. 2016.
“I think there is a placebo effect not only on patients but on doctors,” Dr. Kallmes adds. “The successful patient is burned into their memories and the not-so-successful patient is not. Doctors can have a selective memory that leads them to conclude that, ‘Darn it, it works pretty well.’” Read the entire article.