The Psychology of the Placebo Effect: Exploring Meaning from a Functional Account

Research on a wide range of medical and non-medical conditions has demonstrated the power of the placebo effect but also calls for the necessity to better understand its psychological mechanisms. The placebo effect appears to be elicited by meaning and expectation. However, expectations have been explored by accounts based on conscious thoughts . In this paper, a functionally oriented approach is introduced which favors the functional properties of mental systems whose operations need not be conscious. It is maintained that only one specific mental system, called extension memory, qualifies to produce the placebo effect since it consists of implicit, parallel-holistic networks integrating aspects and providing self-regulatory mechanisms. On the basis of this line of reasoning, experimentally testable research ideas are presented
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