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The Many Meanings of the Placebo Effect: Where They Came From, Why They Matter

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 July 2016

Anne Harrington
Department of the History of Science, Harvard University, Science Center 371, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA E-mail:
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The placebo effect is variously vilified as a basis for unethical medical practice, dismissed as the ephemeral product of gullible imaginations, sanctioned as key to the clinical trials process, and romanticized as evidence of the mind’s quasi-miraculous power to heal the body. These many meanings of the placebo effect exist for a reason: they are products of multiple histories whose legacies continue to be upheld by various stakeholders in debates in which placebos and their effects figure today.

London School of Economics and Political Science

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