Semiotics and the Placebo Effect


Despite substantial progress in elucidating its neurobiological mechanisms, theoretical understanding of the placebo effect is poorly developed. Application of the semiotic theory developed by the American philosopher Charles Peirce offers a promising account of placebo effects as involving the apprehension and response to signs. The semiotic approach dovetails with the various psychological mechanisms invoked to account for placebo effects, such as conditioning and expectation, and bridges the biological and cultural dimensions of this fascinating phenomenon.