Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 419–432

‘Placebos’ and the logic of placebo comparison


DOI: 10.1007/s10539-011-9289-8

Cite this article as:
Turner, A. Biol Philos (2012) 27: 419. doi:10.1007/s10539-011-9289-8


Robin Nunn has argued that we should stop using the terms ‘placebo’ and ‘placebo effect’. I argue in support of Nunn’s position by considering the logic of why we perform placebo comparisons. Like all comparisons, placebo comparison is just a case of comparing one thing with another, but it is a mistake, I argue, to think of placebo comparison as a case where something is compared to ‘a placebo’. Rather, placebo comparison should be understood as a situation which sets-up the treatment and control groups in a particular way; not as a case involving objects or procedures called ‘placebos’ employed in order to control for ‘placebo effects’.


PlaceboPlacebo controlled trialClinical trialsEvidence-based medicine

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Science & Society, SSP, Law & Social Sciences BuildingUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK