Welcome to PiPS

For many years, the placebo effect was considered to be no more than a nuisance variable that needed to be controlled in clinical trials. Only recently have researchers redefined it as the key to understanding the healing that arises from medical ritual, the context of treatment, the patient-provider relationship and the power of imagination, trust and hope.

Although our biomedical health care system often considers these humanistic dimensions of care as secondary to the administration of pharmaceuticals and procedures, the emerging field of placebo studies is producing scientific evidence that these more intangible elements of medicine may fundamentally contribute to the improvement of patient outcomes.

The Program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter hosted at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School is the first research center to pursue placebo studies through interdisciplinary, translational research initiatives that bridge the basic, clinical and social sciences, as well as the humanities.


PiPS researchers come from across Harvard University’s teaching hospitals and its Faculty of Arts and Sciences. This interdisciplinary identity allows researchers to draw upon multiple conceptual models and methodologies as they design studies that elucidate critical aspects of placebo studies.  Read more…


Karin at workPiPS seeks to establish itself as a center where young researchers can develop careers in placebo studies. Collaborations between senior and junior faculty are encouraged and many PiPS researchers are supported by NIH career awards and fellowships. Read more…

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