Beyond expectation: a case for nonpersonal contextual factors in a more comprehensive approach to the placebo effect and the contribution of environmental psychology


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Psychology research and behavior management;8


Dove Medical Press

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Creating an optimized health care environment to maximize the probability and magnitude of placebo effects draws on a number of well-researched mechanisms such as the patient’s positive expectation toward treatment outcome. Patient-centered communication styles influence expectations and can thus be considered as a form of supplemental treatment. Unconsciously processed contextual triggering and facilitating placebo effects are omnipresent in clinical settings as well as in all other social and physical environments. Contextual cues in both the social and physical domain exert influences on the recipient’s emotional state and recreational experiences. While the majority of research focuses on improving the patients’ expectations, classical conditioning effects of nonsocial contextual factors have been largely neglected in discussions on practical implementation of placebo-enhancing environments. Built on the empirically well-supported argument that conditioning processes act as a powerful tool to mobilize self-healing resources just as verbally induced expectations do, we argue for a stronger consideration of the effects of permanent, nonsocial and nonverbal environmental contexts. Environmental psychology is a new field of research within the psychological domain and offers a toolbox of opportunities for medical psychological research and health care practitioners to improve the treatment outcomes and benefits of health care environments.



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