Margarita Olegovna Ashirova is a 2015 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, Seattle.

Dissertation Committee:

  • Alejandra Suarez, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • William Heusler, Psy.D., Committee Member
  • Peter Hunsberger, Ed.D., Committee Member


placebo, placebo response, placebo effect, theoretical, hermeneutics, Gadamer, psychopharmacology, double-blind, contextual theory

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Placebo response has been an elusive phenomenon in the fields of medicine, medical research, and psychology. Even though it has been heavily utilized as a comparator treatment in double-blind psychopharmacological studies, the reliable definition and consistent understanding of placebo response are missing. In this contextual exploration, I outlined the state of current placebo response research and variable rates of placebo response reported in double-blind studies. I identified the gap in the literature—lack of consistent understanding of placebo response—that has led to a waste of resources by the psychopharmacological research industry. Further, I compared and contrasted the current inconsistent Western medical understanding of placebo as outlined by a leading expert on placebo research (Fabrizio Benedetti) and the potential new understanding of placebo response based on philosophical concepts of Hans-Georg Gadamer. I concluded that placebo response appeared to be a contextual phenomenon and therefore could be expected to behave similarly to other contextually based healing modalities as described by Gadamer. I determined that the positivistic approach of modern medical research was not an appropriate method for understanding, researching, or defining placebo. Thus, I argued that psychopharmacological research could be improved by changing the way it used placebo in its control groups and maximizing placebo response in both placebo and active treatment groups instead of minimizing it. I argued that this new approach would bring the drug trial environment closer to the real life treatment environment and improve the quality of the drug trials. The electronic version of this dissertation is at AURA: Antioch University Repository and Archive, and OhioLINK ETD Center,


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