Irving Kirsch, PhD

Associate Director

Research Interests
Selected Publications
Selected Media Coverage
Other Links


Irving Kirsch is Associate Director of the Program in Placebo Studies and lecturer in medicine at the Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He is also Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Plymouth (UK), and University of Hull (UK), and University of Connecticut (US). He has published 10 books and more than 250 scientific journal articles and book chapters on placebo effects, antidepressant medication, hypnosis, and suggestion. He originated the concept of response expectancy. His meta-analyses on the efficacy of antidepressants were covered extensively in the international media and influenced official guidelines for the treatment of depression in the United Kingdom. His book, The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth, which has been published in English, French, Japanese, Italian, Turkish, and Polish, was shortlisted for the prestigious Mind Book of the Year award. It was the topic of 60 Minutes segment on CBS and a 5-page cover story in Newsweek.

Research Interests

Placebo effects, depression, antidepressants, acupuncture, suggestion, suggestibility, automaticity, memory, cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy, hypnosis, anxiety, history and philosophy of psychology

Selected Publications

  1. Michael, R. B., Garry, M., & Kirsch, I. (2012). Suggestion, Cognition, and Behavior. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21(3), 151-156. doi: 10.1177/0963721412446369
  2. Huedo-Medina TB, Johnson BT, Kirsch I. Kirsch et al.’s (2008) calculations are correct: reconsidering Fountoulakis & Möller’s re-analysis of the Kirsch data. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2012 Mar 20; 1-6. View inPubMed
  3. Cosgrove L, Shaughnessy AF, Wheeler EE, Austad KE, Kirsch I, Bursztajn HJ. The American Psychiatric Association’s guideline for major depressive disorder: a commentary. Psychother Psychosom. 2012; 81(3):186-8. View inPubMed
  4. Kirsch I. Role of placebo in irritable bowel syndrome. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2011 Dec; 53 Suppl 2:S42-3. View inPubMed
  5. McGeown WJ, Venneri A, Kirsch I, Nocetti L, Roberts K, Foan L, Mazzoni G. Suggested visual hallucination without hypnosis enhances activity in visual areas of the brain. Conscious Cogn. 2012 Mar; 21(1):100-16. View inPubMed
  6. Wechsler ME, Kelley JM, Boyd IO, Dutile S, Marigowda G, Kirsch I, Israel E, Kaptchuk TJ. Active albuterol or placebo, sham acupuncture, or no intervention in asthma. N Engl J Med. 2011 Jul 14; 365(2):119-26. View inPubMed
  7. Kirsch I. The altered state issue: dead or alive? Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 2011 Jul; 59(3):350-62. View inPubMed
  8. Kirsch I. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences. Preface. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2011 Jun 27; 366(1572):1781-2. View inPubMed
  9. Kirsch I. The use of placebos in clinical trials and clinical practice. Can J Psychiatry. 2011 Apr; 56(4):191-2. View inPubMed
  10. Kaptchuk TJ, Friedlander E, Kelley JM, Sanchez MN, Kokkotou E, Singer JP, Kowalczykowski M, Miller FG, Kirsch I, Lembo AJ. Placebos without deception: a randomized controlled trial in irritable bowel syndrome. PLoS One. 2010; 5(12):e15591. View inPubMed
  11. Kirsch I. Review: benefits of antidepressants over placebo limited except in very severe depression. Evid Based Ment Health. 2010 May; 13(2):49. View inPubMed
  12. Kirsch I. Suggestibility and suggestive modulation of the Stroop effect. Conscious Cogn. 2011 Jun; 20(2):335-6. View inPubMed
  13. Mazzoni G, Foan L, Hyland ME, Kirsch I. The effects of observation and gender on psychogenic symptoms. Health Psychol. 2010 Mar; 29(2):181-5. View inPubMed
  14. Irving Kirsch. The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth. 2010. View inCustom
  15. Kirsch I. Antidepressants and the placebo response. Epidemiol Psichiatr Soc. 2009 Oct-Dec; 18(4):318-22. View inPubMed
  16. McGeown WJ, Mazzoni G, Venneri A, Kirsch I. Hypnotic induction decreases anterior default mode activity. Conscious Cogn. 2009 Dec; 18(4):848-55. View inPubMed
  17. Dienes Z, Brown E, Hutton S, Kirsch I, Mazzoni G, Wright DB. Hypnotic suggestibility, cognitive inhibition, and dissociation. Conscious Cogn. 2009 Dec; 18(4):837-47. View inPubMed
  18. Kelley JM, Lembo AJ, Ablon JS, Villanueva JJ, Conboy LA, Levy R, Marci CD, Kerr CE, Kirsch I, Jacobson EE, Riess H, Kaptchuk TJ. Patient and practitioner influences on the placebo effect in irritable bowel syndrome. Psychosom Med. 2009 Sep; 71(7):789-97. View inPubMed
  19. Kong J, Kaptchuk TJ, Polich G, Kirsch I, Vangel M, Zyloney C, Rosen B, Gollub RL. An fMRI study on the interaction and dissociation between expectation of pain relief and acupuncture treatment. Neuroimage. 2009 Sep; 47(3):1066-76. View inPubMed
  20. Mazzoni G, Rotriquenz E, Carvalho C, Vannucci M, Roberts K, Kirsch I. Suggested visual hallucinations in and out of hypnosis. Conscious Cogn. 2009 Jun; 18(2):494-9. View inPubMed
  21. Kong J, Kaptchuk TJ, Polich G, Kirsch I, Vangel M, Zyloney C, Rosen B, Gollub R. Expectancy and treatment interactions: a dissociation between acupuncture analgesia and expectancy evoked placebo analgesia. Neuroimage. 2009 Apr 15; 45(3):940-9. View inPubMed
  22. Kong J, Gollub RL, Polich G, Kirsch I, Laviolette P, Vangel M, Rosen B, Kaptchuk TJ. A functional magnetic resonance imaging study on the neural mechanisms of hyperalgesic nocebo effect. J Neurosci. 2008 Dec 3; 28(49):13354-62. View inPubMed
  23. Scoboria A, Mazzoni G, Kirsch I. “Don’t know” responding to answerable and unanswerable questions during misleading and hypnotic interviews. J Exp Psychol Appl. 2008 Sep; 14(3):255-65. View inPubMed
  24. Carvalho C, Kirsch I, Mazzoni G, Leal I. Portuguese norms for the Waterloo-Stanford Group C (WSGC) scale of hypnotic susceptibility. Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 2008 Jul; 56(3):295-305. View inPubMed
  25. Kirsch I. Challenging received wisdom: antidepressants and the placebo effect. Mcgill J Med. 2008 Jul; 11(2):219-22. View inPubMed
  26. Kirsch I. Antidepressant drugs ‘work’, but they are not clinically effective. Br J Hosp Med (Lond). 2008 Jun; 69(6):359. View inPubMed
  27. Whalley B, Hyland ME, Kirsch I. Consistency of the placebo effect. J Psychosom Res. 2008 May; 64(5):537-41. View inPubMed
  28. Kaptchuk TJ, Kelley JM, Conboy LA, Davis RB, Kerr CE, Jacobson EE, Kirsch I, Schyner RN, Nam BH, Nguyen LT, Park M, Rivers AL, McManus C, Kokkotou E, Drossman DA, Goldman P, Lembo AJ. Components of placebo effect: randomised controlled trial in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. BMJ. 2008 May 3; 336(7651):999-1003. View inPubMed
  29. Carvalho C, Mazzoni G, Kirsch I, Meo M, Santandrea M. The effect of posthypnotic suggestion, hypnotic suggestibility, and goal intentions on adherence to medical instructions. Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 2008 Apr; 56(2):143-55. View inPubMed
  30. Kirsch I, Johnson BT. Moving beyond depression: How full is the glass? BMJ. 2008 Mar 22; 336(7645):629-30. View inPubMed
  31. Kaptchuk TJ, Kelley JM, Deykin A, Wayne PM, Lasagna LC, Epstein IO, Kirsch I, Wechsler ME. Do “placebo responders” exist? Contemp Clin Trials. 2008 Jul; 29(4):587-95. View inPubMed
  32. Kirsch I, Deacon BJ, Huedo-Medina TB, Scoboria A, Moore TJ, Johnson BT. Initial severity and antidepressant benefits: a meta-analysis of data submitted to the Food and Drug Administration. PLoS Med. 2008 Feb; 5(2):e45. View inPubMed
  33. Kirsch I, Mazzoni G, Montgomery GH. Hypnotic history: a reply to critics. Am J Clin Hypn. 2007 Apr; 49(4):249-54. View inPubMed
  34. Lorber W, Mazzoni G, Kirsch I. Illness by suggestion: expectancy, modeling, and gender in the production of psychosomatic symptoms. Ann Behav Med. 2007 Feb; 33(1):112-6. View inPubMed
  35. Kirsch I, Mazzoni G, Montgomery GH. Remembrance of hypnosis past. Am J Clin Hypn. 2007 Jan; 49(3):171-8; discussion 179-80, 183-4. View inPubMed
  36. Kong J, Kaptchuk TJ, Polich G, Kirsch I, Gollub RL. Placebo analgesia: findings from brain imaging studies and emerging hypotheses. Rev Neurosci. 2007; 18(3-4):173-90. View inPubMed
  37. Kirsch I, Moncrieff J. Clinical trials and the response rate illusion. Contemp Clin Trials. 2007 Jul; 28(4):348-51. View inPubMed
  38. Scoboria A, Mazzoni G, Kirsch I. Effects of misleading questions and hypnotic memory suggestion on memory reports: a signal-detection analysis. Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 2006 Jul; 54(3):340-59. View inPubMed
  39. Kaptchuk TJ, Stason WB, Davis RB, Legedza AR, Schnyer RN, Kerr CE, Stone DA, Nam BH, Kirsch I, Goldman RH. Sham device v inert pill: randomised controlled trial of two placebo treatments. BMJ. 2006 Feb 18; 332(7538):391-7. View inPubMed
  40. Raz A, Kirsch I, Pollard J, Nitkin-Kaner Y. Suggestion reduces the stroop effect. Psychol Sci. 2006 Feb; 17(2):91-5. View inPubMed
  41. Conboy LA, Wasserman RH, Jacobson EE, Davis RB, Legedza AT, Park M, Rivers AL, Morey EB, Nam BH, Lasagna L, Kirsch I, Lembo AJ, Kaptchuk TJ, Kerr CE. Investigating placebo effects in irritable bowel syndrome: a novel research design. Contemp Clin Trials. 2006 Apr; 27(2):123-34. View inPubMed
  42. Kong J, Gollub RL, Rosman IS, Webb JM, Vangel MG, Kirsch I, Kaptchuk TJ. Brain activity associated with expectancy-enhanced placebo analgesia as measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging. J Neurosci. 2006 Jan 11; 26(2):381-8. View inPubMed
  43. Moncrieff J, Kirsch I. Efficacy of antidepressants in adults. BMJ. 2005 Jul 16; 331(7509):155-7. View inPubMed
  44. Kirsch I. Placebo psychotherapy: synonym or oxymoron? J Clin Psychol. 2005 Jul; 61(7):791-803. View inPubMed
  45. Milling LS, Kirsch I, Allen GJ, Reutenauer EL. The effects of hypnotic and nonhypnotic imaginative suggestion on pain. Ann Behav Med. 2005 Apr; 29(2):116-27. View inPubMed
  46. Kirsch I, Lynn SJ, Vigorito M, Miller RR. The role of cognition in classical and operant conditioning. J Clin Psychol. 2004 Apr; 60(4):369-92. View inPubMed
  47. Kirsch I. Conditioning, expectancy, and the placebo effect: comment on Stewart-Williams and Podd (2004). Psychol Bull. 2004 Mar; 130(2):341-3; discussion 344-5. View inPubMed
  48. Maltby N, Kirsch I, Mayers M, Allen GJ. Virtual reality exposure therapy for the treatment of fear of flying: a controlled investigation. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2002 Oct; 70(5):1112-8. View inPubMed
  49. Charney DS, Nemeroff CB, Lewis L, Laden SK, Gorman JM, Laska EM, Borenstein M, Bowden CL, Caplan A, Emslie GJ, Evans DL, Geller B, Grabowski LE, Herson J, Kalin NH, Keck PE, Kirsch I, Krishnan KR, Kupfer DJ, Makuch RW, Miller FG, Pardes H, Post R, Reynolds MM, Roberts L, Rosenbaum JF, Rosenstein DL, Rubinow DR, Rush AJ, Ryan ND, Sachs GS, Schatzberg AF, Solomon S. National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association consensus statement on the use of placebo in clinical trials of mood disorders. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2002 Mar; 59(3):262-70. View inPubMed
  50. Scoboria A, Mazzoni G, Kirsch I, Milling LS. Immediate and persisting effects of misleading questions and hypnosis on memory reports. J Exp Psychol Appl. 2002 Mar; 8(1):26-32. View inPubMed
  51. Kirsch, I., Moore, T. J., Scoboria, A., & Nicholls, S. S. . Prevention & Treatment. The emperor’s new drugs: An analysis of antidepressant medication data submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 2002; 5(1):10.1037/1522-3736.5.1.523a.
  52. Aplan PD, Begley CG, Bertness V, Nussmeier M, Ezquerra A, Coligan J, Kirsch IR. The SCL gene is formed from a transcriptionally complex locus. Mol Cell Biol. 1990 Dec; 10(12):6426-35. View inPubMed
  53. Kirsch, I. (1985). Response expectancy as a determinant of experience and behavior. American Psychologist, 40, 1189-1202.
  54. Caccia N, Bruns GA, Kirsch IR, Hollis GF, Bertness V, Mak TW. T cell receptor alpha chain genes are located on chromosome 14 at 14q11-14q12 in humans. J Exp Med. 1985 May 1; 161(5):1255-60. View inPubMed
  55. Kirsch I. The politics of reinforcement. Psychotherapy (Chic). 1974; 11(4):311-6. View inPubMed

Selected Media Coverage


Treating Depression: Is there a Placebo Effect? 60 Minutes
Full Story
Overtime Special


Devlin, Hannah. Talking therapies are more effective than Prozac-type drugs, says scientist.  The Times.
Menand, Louis. Can psychiatry be a science? The New Yorker.
Levingston, Steven. Antidepressants no more effective than placebos, leading researcher claims in new book.  Washington Post.
Begley, Sharon.  The Depressing News About Antidepressants. Newsweek.
Boseley, Sarah. Prozac, used by 40m people, does not work say scientists.  The Guardian.


Greenberg, G.  Is it Prozac? Or Placebo? Mother Jones.
Harrison, J. Placebo: Mind over Medicine. Discovery Channel.

Other Links

Harvard Catalyst Profile
Plenary Session at the 2012 Integrative Medicine & Health International Research Congress (video)






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