The Placebo Effect

My dissertation offered a philosophical account of the placebo effect. Within it, I considered several prominent accounts of the placebo effect that have been put forward and argued that none of them are able to adequately account for the diverse instantiations of the phenomenon. I then offered a novel account, suggesting that we ought to think of the placebo effect as encompassing three distinct responses: conditioned placebo responses, cognitive placebo responses, and network placebo responses. I also considered implications of the placebo effect’s role in complementary and alternative medicine for discussions of how to demarcate between science and pseudoscience within philosophy of science. Finally, I offered a bioethical argument that maintains that the neglect of the placebo effect within medicine may be contributing to an increase in health disparities along lines of race and ethnicity. I am continuing to explore ethical and epistemic issues related to the placebo effect, particularly in relation to research ethics, evidence based medicine, and complex psychosomatic conditions in which placebo responses are common.

Representative Papers:

Recent/ Forthcoming Papers:

  • Friesen, P. (2020) Towards an Account of the Placebo Effect: A Critical Evaluation Alongside Current Evidence", Biology & Philosophy

  • Shevlin, H., Friesen, P. (2020) Pain, Placebo, and Cognitive Penetration. Mind and Language


Recent / Upcoming Talks:

  • “Efficacy According to EBM: Are we missing out on placebo responses?” (December, 2018) at the World Congress of Bioethics, Bangalore, India

  • “Pseudoscience, the Placebo Effect, and Complementary and Alternative Medicine” (November, 2018) at The Philosophy of Placebo Workshop, University College London