21 Apr 2022


The Placebo Response Occurs Outside of Conscious Awareness

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Academic level: Master’s

Paper type: Coursework

Words: 384

Pages: 1

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The link between body and mind is a new and novel phenomenon in medical practice, specifically in relation to the placebo effect. Traditionally treated as different entities, Reilly and Harrison (2002) note a paradigm shift in practice, with the medical fraternity recognizing the existence of constant interaction between the body and mind. Psychological triggers, whether as an outcome of conscious or subconscious process, are now believed to have the capability to influence an outcome of a placebo. This is especially important given the role of placebo in aiding treatment of certain medical conditions. According to Benson and Friedman (1996), the placebo effects is an outcome of positive belies and expectations from the patient; positive belies and expectations from the physician; or a positive relationship between the two. However, the ability of these effects to trigger a positive placebo outcome is what informs the debate.

The Placebo effects holds immense potential for the medical sector hence the need to understand crucial concepts underpinning it. First, is Reilly and Harrison (2002) theory where the body and mind are connected through the interrelationship between the psycho, neuro, and immune-components. A study by Jensen, Kaptchuk, Kirsch (2012) gave a new perspective to how the placebo effect occurs, by postulating that it is an outcome of subliminal cues thought to occur in a person’s subconscious, which somehow, justifies Benson and Friedman (1996) “remembered wellness” reference to the placebo effect. Whether the placebo effect is an outcome of conscious or subconscious process is crucial to determination of a possible trigger to enhance the effectiveness of the placebo. However, it is important to understand that the mechanism of action is still founded in the link between the mind and body. In explaining this concept proposed by Reilly and Harrison (2002), Padgett and Glaser (2003) illustrated the interconnectedness between the mind and hormonal and immune system responsible for the physiological processes of the body. Through examination of the influence of stress on the immune response, Padgett and Glaser (2003) established that stress acts as a trigger of physiological changes by stimulating certain parts of the mind such as the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis and the sympathetic–adrenal–medullary axis to produce hormones that have effects on the immune system depending on the needs of the body. Stress can occur subconsciously, hence corroborates the theory on the placebo effect being an outcome of the same.

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Benson, MD, H., & Friedman, Ph. D, R. (1996). Harnessing the power of the placebo effect and renaming it “remembered wellness”.  Annual review of medicine 47 (1), 193-199.

Jensen, K. B., Kaptchuk, T. J., Kirsch, I., Raicek, J., Lindstrom, K. M., Berna, C., ... & Kong, J. (2012). Nonconscious activation of placebo and nocebo pain responses.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109 (39), 15959-15964.

Padgett, D. A., & Glaser, R. (2003). How stress influences the immune response.  Trends in immunology 24 (8), 444-448.

Reilly, D., & Harrison, T. (2002). Creative consulting: psychoneuroimmunology, the mindbody.  Student BMJ 10 .

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 14). The Placebo Response Occurs Outside of Conscious Awareness.


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