Expectations: How and when do they contribute to placebo analgesia?

Sophie Rosenkjær*, Sigrid Juhl Lunde, Irving Kirsch, Lene Vase

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


In placebo research, expectations are highlighted as one of the most influential subjective factors. While some studies have shown a relationship between expectations and pain relief, others have not. However, little is known about how methods of assessment of expectations may affect these conclusions. One of the fundamental considerations is that participants in placebo trials rate their expectations when prompted to rate them on scales in advance, but are less likely to report their prior expectations, when asked to report their experience retroactively in an unprompted manner, often expressing, for example, prior hope or wishes of recovery. This article presents previously unpublished data to elucidate and explore the concepts highlighted by individuals in a placebo analgesia trial when assessed in a prompted and unprompted manner. The data corroborates the role of expectations involved in placebo effects, particularly in placebo analgesia. Thus, the question may be a matter of how and when expectations contribute to placebo effects, rather than if.

Original languageEnglish
Article number817179
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • expectations
  • hope
  • placebo analgesia
  • placebo effects
  • prediction


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