Psychology Professor serves as founding member of new interdisciplinary research association


Professor Giuliana Mazzoni of the Department of Psychology has been invited to serve as a founding member of the newly-launched Society for Interdisciplinary Placebo Studies (SIPS).

Based at the Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, SIPS members are drawn from across the globe. Their respective fields of expertise include medicine, neuroscience, philosophy, medical history, ethics, psychiatry, hypnosis and psychology.

Professor Giuliana Mazzoni

SIPS seeks to promote communication and interdisciplinary cooperation between research centres and scholars, facilitating dissemination of research results and theoretical ideas by developing a web-based contact list and promoting international conferences at which new work can be presented.

Placebo comes from the Latin ‘I shall please’, and reflects the ability of the human mind to positively influence the outcome of an illness without using any active medication.

Placebo is referred to as a ‘sham’ treatment. It imitates a medical treatment in appearance and delivery, acting as the standard control condition in all clinical trials. A common example of this is a pill that looks like medicine but is in fact made of sugar. Despite having no active ingredients, research suggests that such placebos can contribute to the relief of symptoms of medical conditions through the activation of psychological and neurological mechanisms.

Professor Mazzoni’s lab specialises in the study of top-down processes. Her main area of investigation is the effects of various forms of suggestion on memory and health, of which the placebo – and nocebo – effects are excellent examples. The nocebo effect can be seen as the ‘bad cousin’ of the placebo effect, resulting in an increase in the negative symptoms experienced by the individual in the absence of any objective cause.

Other SIPS members with links to Hull include Dr Matthew Coleshill, who recently completed his PhD under the supervision of Professor Mazzoni, and Emeritus Professor Irving Kirsch, now Associate Director of the Program in Placebo Studies at the Harvard Medical School. The Department of Psychology at the University of Hull will serve as a SIPS partner institution.

For further information about Professor Mazzoni’s research, visit her profile and Human Memory Lab page.

To learn more about SIPS, visit their website.

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