The main goal of our theoretical work has been critically summarizing the previous theories about the adaptivity of the placebo-phenomenon and synthetizing them. From the biological point of view, the phenomenon in itself is not unambiguously adaptive thus its evolution cannot be fully explained by direct selection. After overviewing the underlying biological and psychological mechanisms, the authors consider the human placebo-phenomenon as an evolutionary by-product, that had originally emerged from interaction of other adaptive characteristics (such as sociability, learning, consciousness, theory of mind). On the other hand, the placebo-phenomenon is culturally determined hence it goes beyond the frames of Darwinian evolution. Due to its cultural embeddedness and to the increasing number of disorders of partially psychic origin, the importance of placebo is growing in our age. As the representation of the environment had become more and more complex, the importance of mind-visceral connections also increased. Perhaps the placebo can be the tool which should be able to activate the biological self-healing mechanisms repressed by our modern culture - even within the frames of the contemporary medicine that in many ways is symptom-oriented, overspecialized, rigid and non-personal. This is why the authors consider the human placebo-phenomenon as culturally potentially adaptive.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
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