Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

2013 Edition
| Editors: Marc D. Gellman, J. Rick Turner

Placebo and Placebo Effect

  • Magne Arve FlatenEmail author
  • Mustafa al’Absi
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1005-9_275



A placebo is any inert substance, procedure, apparatus, or similar, that alone has no effect in the body. The placebo effect is the psychological and/or physiological response to the placebo when it is administrated with a suggestion that the substance, procedure, apparatus, or similar will have an effect in the individual.


Placebo comes from the Latin word “placere” which means “I shall please” and has been used in medicine to describe treatments that pleases the patient, but that has no specific effect on the symptom.

A placebo effect may occur when a substance, procedure, or other stimulus is administrated to a person, together with a suggestion that this will reduce or heal a symptom. The placebo effect may occur whether the substance or procedure is effective in reducing the symptom or not, as effective treatments may also induce placebo effects. Both the substance or procedure and the...

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References and Readings

  1. Benedetti, F., Pollo, A., Lopiano, L., Lanotte, M., Vighetti, S., & Rainero, I. (2003). Conscious expectation and unconscious conditioning in analgesic, motor, and hormonal placebo/nocebo responses. Journal of Neuroscience, 23(10), 4315–4323.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Eippert, F., Finsterbusch, J., Bingel, U., & Buchel, C. (2009). Direct evidence for spinal cord involvement in placebo analgesia. Science, 326(5951), 404–404.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Flaten, M. A., Simonsen, T., & Olsen, H. (1999). Drug-related information generates placebo and nocebo responses that modify the drug response. Psychosomatic Medicine, 61(2), 250–255.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Hróbjartsson, A., & Gøtzscke, P. C. (2001). Is the placebo powerless? The New England Journal of Medicine, 344(21), 1594–1602.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Wager, T. D., Rilling, J. K., Smith, E. E., Sokolik, A., Casey, K. L., Davidson, R. J., et al. (2004). Placebo induced changes in fMRIin the anticipation and experience of pain. Science, 303(5661), 1162–1167.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TromsøTromsøNorway
  2. 2.University of Minnesota Medical School, University of Minnesota, 235 School of MedicineDuluthUSA