The Psychology of Placebo
For this WTL, begin by reading the attached excerpts from the book Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body by Jo Marchant. There are two PDF documents you should read: Introduction (pp. xiii-xx) Chapter 1 – Faking It: Why Nothing Works (pp. 1-20) Then, answer the following questions: What is a “placebo” and why do researchers typically want to control for placebo effects in their experimental designs? What did you think about Marchant’s book excerpts? Did anything surprise you about these findings? Marchant (2016, pp. 16-17) describes research suggesting that endogenous opioids mediate the placebo response to pain (i.e., someone in pain is given a placebo and then claims that their pain is reduced). If we cannot ever trace a subjective/felt placebo effect to an underlying physiological mechanism, does that mean it is not real? That it is “all in the person’s head?” Why or why not? Marchant (2016, pp. 19) describes the consistent research finding that antidepressants (SSRIs) have little effect over and above placebos. Is this problematic? Why or why not? Finally, Marchant (2016, pp. 1-3) describes parents’ motivation to find a cure for their son’s autism spectrum disorder. She uses language such as “the words they dreaded” and “appear normal but then regress.” What image of autism spectrum disorder does her language evoke? Why is this problematic?

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