Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Series, 2013-2014

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has funded PiPS to curate a series of five public forums that will increase awareness and foster dialog about placebo effects among a wider range of audiences, including patients, health policy-makers, providers, and researchers from other fields. Forum topics will include the neuroscience behind placebo effects, the role of clinical guidelines and the patient voice, and lessons about medical care from anthropology, philosophy, history, and religion.

Each forum will also be accompanied by a smaller gathering of key stakeholders to facilitate cross-discipline collaborations and candid conversations about the state of the field. Ideally, these gatherings will result in new collaborative projects and the publication of academic and lay papers.

Vist the RWJF website for more information about the foundation.

“The Science of Placebo” – June 19-20, 2013

At this first forum, four world-renowned experts shared summaries of their clinical and neurobiological studies of the mechanisms behind the placebo effect. Watch their full talks and read a white paper summarizing the themes and ideas that emerged from this first forum.

Watch highlights from the first forum:

Read a blog post reflecting on the forum by Brian Quinn, Assistant Vice President of Research and Evaluation at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Read a New York Times article by Danielle Ofri about Ted’s work and the forum.

“Placebo Effects in Guidelines, Practice, & Patient Choice” – December 9-10, 2013

The second forum was held on December 9-10, 2013 at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Leading academic experts and clinicians examined how placebo effects might be incorporated into clinical guidelines and the decision-making process between provider and patient.

Watch a video archive of the event.  And read a “white paper” summarizing a day-long conversation between experts, researchers, and clinicians.

“Healing & Placebo Effects: Medicine, Religion & Ritual” – February 11-12, 2014

The third forum featured a keynote on February 11th by Tanya Luhrmann of Stanford titled, “Placebo and Prayer: Why Prayer Practice May Help Heal” followed by a discussion on February 12th among invited guests focused on “Health and Placebo Effects: Medicine, Religion and Ritual.”  Details here on the public talk with Tanya Luhrmann.

“The Efficacy of Placebos: A Historian’s Perspective”  – May 21-22, 2014

This forum featured a public talk by Charles E. Rosenberg, Professor of the History of Science and Ernest E. Monrad Professor in the Social Sciences at Harvard University.  He began an inquiry into what was really happening when therapeutic techniques, that today might be dismissed and ridiculed, were deemed efficacious by clinicians and patients alike.  Watch a video of his talk.

The Relativity of “Placebos” – October 21, 2014

This public talk will feature Jeremy Howick, Senior Researcher at the Center for Evidence-Based Medicine & Faculty of Philosophy at University of Oxford.  He will address the need for a clear definition of placebos as well as some of the ethical issues they raise.  More details here.

Placebo Effects & Behavior Social Science – March 9. 2015

Placebo effects describe the environmental cues and the conscious and non-conscious learning processes that precipitate health improvement in ways that, in some cases, mimic pharmaceuticals.  Diverse fields in the social sciences are working to understand what drives human perception, judgment, behavior, and decision-making.  For example, there is increasing awareness of how, in behavioral economics, ‘choice architecture’, and in social psychology, of how ‘priming’ and ’embodied cognition’ can guide self-awareness and behaviors.  While there is a clear connection between the worlds of behavioral social science and placebo studies, there has been little discussion of this link in the academy. This faculty-only seminar was devoted to exploring this intersection. Co-sponsored by Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science, Harvard Kennedy School’s Behavioral Insights Group, and the Ackerman Program on Medicine and Culture, this seminar included brief presentations by Amy Cuddy of Harvard Business School, Alia Crum of Stanford, and Ted Kaptchuk.  For specifics, view flyer here.

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