Keith Petrie
Professor of Health Psychology, University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Handle with care: The nocebo response in the clinical environment

The nocebo effect has a major influence on the outcome of medical treatment but it is relatively understudied and unrecognized, compared to its more glamorous counterpart, the placebo effect.  Understanding the mechanisms involved in the nocebo response is key to reducing its negative outcomes in clinical settings, which include increased symptom burden, unnecessary hospitalization and treatment, non-adherence and impaired patient quality of life. The misattribution of physical symptoms is at the heart of the nocebo response and I will discuss the key factors involved in this process. I will also present some of our recent studies in different clinical areas focused on understanding the development and reduction of the nocebo response. These include the role of the media in intensifying the nocebo response following a recent nationwide medication switch. I will also discuss how subtle differences in clinician framing of drug information and response can influence patient expectations and willingness to change to new treatment. New research on the role of the internet and technology in promoting nocebo responding will be presented. The talk will also cover some new work on how the nocebo response can be reduced in clinical investigations and treatments.



Keith Petrie, PhD is Professor of Health Psychology at Auckland University Medical School in New Zealand. His research group does work on patients’ perceptions of illness, treatment adherence, as well as the placebo and nocebo response. Keith Petrie and his colleague John Weinman developed the Illness Perception Questionnaire, which is widely used internationally. Professor Petrie’s research in the placebo and nocebo area has recently focused on improving patient expectations about treatment and reducing the nocebo response. Keith Petrie has been awarded numerous prizes and fellowships for his research, including a Fulbright Fellowship to Harvard University, the Gluckman Medal and a Distinguished International Scholar Award from the American Psychological Association. He has been elected as a Fellow of the Association of Psychological Science and the Academy of Behavioural Medicine Research. In 2015 he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society and was the recipient of the Durie Medal, which is awarded to New Zealand’s pre-eminent social scientist.