This session will present recent studies on the placebo effect as critical points of reference for understanding the “context” of mindfulness. I will focus on numerous “non-specific” mechanisms that have been evaluated in studies of the placebo effect, including the therapeutic effects of relationship, expectation, hope, surprise, and embodiment. I will draw from published studies that I have carried out with the Harvard Medical School placebo group, and will also consider more recent studies carried out by that group and others. The relevance for mindfulness researchers comes from considering whether these “non-specific” therapeutic mechanisms are critical components of mindfulness based interventions. The talk will also consider the hypothesis that these mechanisms (e.g., hope, expectation, etc.) include aspects of experience that mindfulness-based interventions ask participants to reflect upon as they go through the intervention. Throughout, I will consider the strengths and weaknesses of different methods including qualitative studies, randomized controlled trials, and neuroscientific studies of brain mechanisms.

Catherine Kerr, PhD

Brown University

Convening Faculty, Fellow, Grantee

Catherine Kerr, PhD was director of translational neuroscience at the Contemplative Studies Initiative at Brown University. Her neuroscience research focused on neural dynamics underlying embodied attention and the sense of … MORE