Beliefs and expectation effects in health concerns about modern technologies

Auteur Corentin WICHT
Directeur /trice PD Dr Lucas Spierer
Co-directeur(s) /trice(s) Prof. Irving Kirsch
Résumé de la thèse

Belief formation and expectancies are essential mechanisms promoting placebo and nocebo effects. Based on prior experiences, individuals form beliefs as to what to expect in a given situation. When again in such a situation, the context itself can guide behaviour (e.g. seeing a doctor in its clinical environment reducing symptoms). Placebo and Nocebo effects, elicited by inert substances (e.g. a sugar pill) or sham procedures (e.g. fake acupuncture), have been extensively studied in clinical frameworks with a special focus on placebo-nocebo analgesia and hyperalgesia. Our research goal is to investigate the importance of beliefs in placebo and nocebo effects in different contexts ranging from i) societal phenomena promoted by the media regarding hazards brought about by new technologies and ii) cognitive enhancing properties attributed to psychostimulants. These studies are run in collaboration with Dr Chantal Berna, Cheffe de Clinique at the Pain Center (Division of Anaesthesiology) at the CHUV and with Prof Irving Kirsch, Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA. We will run our experiments using different designs including the Balanced Placebo Designs. This latter enables distinguishing between pure pharmacological effects of an intervention separately from the particular effects of beliefs and expectancies regarding the intervention. Thus, we will be able to determine whether placebo or nocebo effects can explain these interventions’ consequences, or whether they should be attributed to the direct influence of what is assumed to be part of the intervention (e.g. computer screen exposition, pharmacological effect). To that purpose, we will approach this question using multimodal techniques ranging from psychological (e.g. questionnaires, cognitive tasks) to physiological (e.g. biomarkers) and neurophysiological (e.g. electroencephalography) assessments.

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