Design for contextual healing: The power of placebo

Placebo effects are often observed in clinical trials when patients report to feel better after unknowingly receiving a ‘fake’ treatment. Why is it that a ‘fake’ treatment can make us feel better? When a treatment is stripped from its proven effective parts (e.g. a tested pharmaceutical agent), what is left is the meaning of the therapeutic ritual to the patient. Hence, when we think of placebo effects, we should not be thinking of ‘fake’ treatments. Instead, we should be thinking of effects caused by the patient’s interpretation of a therapeutic ritual. This implies that placebo effects not only occur with ‘fake’ treatments, but also with proven effective treatments. Such a reconceptualization opens up opportunities for designers working in the medical field. In this presentation I will demonstrate the power of placebo effects and explore, with the audience, how this power may be used by designers to heal patients.

Studio Show
December 14, 2016
16:00 – 17:00