Nothingness and the placebo effect phenomenon

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The placebo effect is a pharmacological conundrum, since it is a medical effect that is produced by “nothing” because no pharmacologically active substance is present in placebo. Placebo has, among other things, been defined as an inert substance, often a calcium pill. Simultaneously it presents a psychophysiological challenge in the question of what it is exactly that the subject reacts to. In other words, the relation between the subject and the placebo is a precarious one. There is a vast amount of literature on the placebo effect, and it has been studied as a separate field of investigation since the late 1940’ies, mainly for pre-elimination from medical trials. It has been studied as an effect of personality traits, as an expectational effect, and as a psychophysiological phenomenon. Through history "Placebo reactants" have been labelled, difficult, simple minded and hypochondriacs. But all attempts to tame the placebo effect have been in vain, because the placebo effect can only be enhanced, never eliminated. Although maybe not a psychological wonder, it remains a pharmacological riddle how something that is “nothing” can cause a measurable effect. In this paper I shall address this issue from a posthuman angle, applying Karen Barad’s concept of agential realism to tackle the issue of nothingness. I argue that the placebo effect produces specific agencies in the placebo effect phenomenon – that is, both the subject under treatment and the placebo emerge in the placebo effect in the act of measuring it
Original languageDanish
Publication date6 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2015
EventInternational Society for Theoretical psychology 16th Biennial Conference: Resistance & Renewal - Coventry University, Conventry, United Kingdom
Duration: 26 Jun 201530 Jun 2015


ConferenceInternational Society for Theoretical psychology 16th Biennial Conference
LocationCoventry University
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
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