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Placebo Paradox 2: The Mechanism 

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

Placebo is full of paradoxes. For example, the original was: if placebo is so ding dang “powerful,” why isn’t everyone cured? And here’s a sequel, via researcher Steve Kamper:

… there exists a logical paradox at the very heart of the way placebo effects are conceptualised. We have an intervention that is, by definition, inert (a placebo intervention) which produces an effect which is real (a placebo effect). Now maybe this reflects my own lack of imagination, but I just can’t get my head around an effect that has no mechanism. Surely there must either be no effect (i.e. there is no placebo effect), or the intervention must have a mechanism (i.e. placebos are not inert, but real treatments).

Indeed. The whole short article is excellent.

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