How placebo shapes sensory data

How placebo shapes sensory data

From signs and memory to the embodiment of living beings

Francoise Schenk, Université de Lausanne, 1015 Dorigny, Suisse 

Anne-Claude Berthoud, Université de Lausanne

Alain Papaux, Université de Lausanne

Nicolas Zaslawski, Université de Lausanne

Gilles Merminod, Université de Lausanne


The placebo phenomenon is observed on the basis of two main assumptions, at the intersection between biological, semiotic and epistemological fields. 1. A placebo response is induced by many pretexts in different contexts, none of them being regarded as a cause, but as a catalyst. 2. This response is an interpretation by the body of how to adapt during the coming times.

To tackle it in an interdisciplinary approach, we did not aim at a homogenous understanding, but assembled different considerations from the psychophysiology, semiotic or phenomenology, in order to find the signature of placebo. We propose that this unique signature appears in the particular way sensory data are shaped in a configurative meaning suggesting future body adaptive requirements.

The placebo effect refers to the meaning of a treatment for the subject himself, a meaning the body can grasp. This very grasp can be enlightened by the transcendental understanding of the body and its bodily language developed by Merleau-Ponty. Such language is addressed by the body to the body. This language is also approached by psychosomatic, and might be analyzed both in more general and more specific ways at the same time. Its epistemological dimension can be related to the logic of abduction.

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