Overcoming disagreement: a roadmap for placebo studies

Biology and Philosophy 34 (2):18 (2019)
  Copy   BIBTEX


In the field of placebo studies residual disagreement about the terminology ‘placebo’ and ‘placebo effect’ still persists. We differentiate between the conceptualization of placebos in clinical trials; and placebo effects understood as a psychobiological phenomenon. With respect to the latter, we argue that a scientific ‘placebo paradigm’ has emerged, indicating that—at least among placebo scientists—there exists relatively stable consensus about how to conceive of placebo effects. We claim that existence of a placebo paradigm does not protect concepts from revision; nonetheless, we argue that scientific progress is dependent on, and guided by relative conceptual stability. Therefore, to mount persuasive arguments for conceptual revision in respect of ‘placebo effects’ we argue, critics either need to defend the claim that a placebo paradigm is not underway, or that there are major scientific failings in respect of it. With these considerations in mind we examine three alternative proposals for conceptual reform: Grünbaum/Howick’s relativity models of placebo concepts; Moerman/Brody’s meaning response; and Nunn/Turner’s proposal for conceptual eliminativism. We derive two conclusions from this evaluation. First, we conclude that no convincing arguments have so far been presented for conceptual overhaul of ‘placebo effects.’ Notwithstanding this analysis, we conclude that refinement of this concept is likely. Second, we agree with Turner and Nunn that the term ‘placebo’ in the context of randomized controlled trials remains a source of confusion for many researchers, risking the design and scientific integrity of clinical findings. Therefore, in these contexts, replacing the term ‘placebo’ with ‘control’ is justified.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 74,389

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Consensus in Placebo Studies: Lessons From The Philosophy of Science.Charlotte Blease - 2018 - Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 61 (3):412-429.
‘Placebos’ and the Logic of Placebo Comparison.Andrew Turner - 2012 - Biology and Philosophy 27 (3):419-432.
Reining in the Placebo Effect.Franklin G. Miller - 2018 - Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 61 (3):335-348.
What Are the Benefits of a New Placebo Language?Andrew Turner - 2018 - Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 61 (3):401-411.
The Meaning Response, "Placebo," and Methods.Phil Hutchinson & Daniel E. Moerman - 2018 - Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 61 (3):361-378.
The Ethics of the Placebo in Clinical Practice.P. Lichtenberg - 2004 - Journal of Medical Ethics 30 (6):551-554.
The Placebo Effect in Psychiatry: Problem or Solution?Susan Huculak - 2014 - Journal of Medical Ethics 40 (6):376-380.
Placebos in Clinical Practice and Research.P. P. De Deyn & R. D'Hooge - 1996 - Journal of Medical Ethics 22 (3):140-146.
Semiotics and the Placebo Effect.Franklin G. Miller & Luana Colloca - 2010 - Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 53 (4):509-516.


Added to PP

31 (#373,554)

6 months
1 (#415,900)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?