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2007 - Volume 28, Number 1, Winter

The Psychology of the Placebo Effect: Exploring Meaning from a Functional Account 

Research on a wide range of medical and non-medical conditions has demonstrated the power of the placebo effect but also calls for the necessity to better understand its psychological mechanisms. The placebo effect appears to be elicited by meaning and expectation. However, expectations have been explored by accounts based on conscious thoughts (i.e., phenomenological approaches). In this paper, a functionally oriented approach (personality systems interaction theory) is introduced which favors the functional properties of mental systems whose operations need not be conscious. It is maintained that only one specific mental system, called extension memory, qualifies to produce the placebo effect since it consists of implicit, parallel-holistic networks integrating (self-)aspects and providing self-regulatory mechanisms. On the basis of this line of reasoning, experimentally testable research ideas are presented. 

Requests for reprints should be sent to Dr. Rainer Schneider, Universitätsklinik Freiburg, Institut für Umweltmedizin und Krankenhaushygiene, UK, Breisacher Strasse 115 B, 70106 Freiburg, Germany. Email: rainer.schneider@uniklinik-freiburg.de

Time, Form and the Limits of Qualia 

Our understanding of qualia is extremely weak when considerations of time are brought into play. Ignored has been the fact that the scale of time imposed by the brain on the events of the matter-field already defines quality, and that there is an essential “primary memory” or continuity of time that underlies all qualitative events. This weakness is magnified when the concept of qualia is applied to form. The origin of the dilemma lies in the fact that the problem of qualia is posed in the context of an abstract space and time. When the time-evolution of the matter-field is taken as indivisible or non-differentiable, the problem can be reposed. It becomes a problem of the optimal specification of properties of an already qualitative matter-field at a particular scale of time. 

Requests for reprints should be sent to Stephen E. Robbins, Ph.D., Center for Advanced Product Engineering, Metavante Corporation, 10850 W. Park Place, PP11, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53224. Email: Stephen.Robbins@Metavante.com

Introspecting Brain 

Suggestions and arguments put forward by the philosophers Herbert Feigl, Paul Feyerabend, Richard Rorty, and Paul Churchland are critiqued as to the feasibility of a “direct,” quasi-perceptual apprehension of neural states through neuroscience-informed introspection. The conceptual origins of this presumptuous direct introspecting are shown to be derivative from a scientifically inadequate theory of philosophical realism. Direct perception and its integral realist theory, as well as an analogical equation of perception with introspection, are focused as to their inherent intelligibility and coherence with sensory psychology. Claims of nominal intertheoretic identities are reviewed as to possible mind–brain applications. A summary elucidation of the known nature of perception and its phenomenology reveals that though there may be an initial plausibility given to a projected direct introspection of brain from a supposed equally direct perception of stimuli, once the latter is definitively rejected from considerations of psychology, so its extrapolation to nominal brain introspection must be rejected. 

Requests for reprints should be sent to Mark Crooks, Institute of Mind and Behavior, P.O. Box 522, Village Station, New York City, NY 10014. Email: crooksma@msu.edu or platopenhauer@yahoo.com

Theory-Neutral “Explanations”: A Final Note on Kuttner and Rosenblum’s Approach to Science 

To understand differences in perspective between Kuttner and Rosenblum’s (2006) and my view (Vandervert, 2006) of the plausibility of theory-neutral quantum experiments, meta-theoretical differences between experimental physicists and theoretical physicists are examined. According to F.S.C. Northrop the perspective of experimental physicists (like Kuttner and Rosenblum) is more toward the operational specification of “facts,” while the perspective of theoretical physicists (like Albert Einstein) is more toward how theory influences how we see “facts” and, at the epistemological level, what constitutes “facts.” It is pointed out that the same difference in perspective occurs among scientists in psychology. An example of how the purely experimental perspective could lead to Kuttner/Rosenblum-type impossible experiments in psychology is presented. 

Requests for reprints should be sent to Larry R. Vandervert, Ph.D., American Nonlinear Systems, 1529 W. Courtland Avenue, Spokane, Washington, 99205. Email: LVandervert@aol.com

Response to Vandervert’s “Final Note” 

Vandervert’s “Final Note” is based on a flawed distinction between theoretical and experimental physicists. Vandervert also incorrectly characterizes Kuttner and Rosenblum as “experimental physicists.” Moreover, the perspective of Einstein, which Vandervert advocates, includes precisely the type of thought experiment Kuttner and Rosenblum originally displayed and that Vandervert criticized. 

Requests for reprints should be sent to Fred Kuttner, Ph.D., Department of Physics, University of California, Santa Cruz, California 95064.

Book Review

Materie und Geist. Eine philosophische Untersuchung [Matter and Mind. A Philosophical Investigation]
Book Author: 
Reviewed by Jörg R.J. Schirra, Illingen, Germany

Among the many fascinating questions that have driven out kind to perform science and philosophy, the question of the nature of the mind (or in an older terminology: the soul) is certainly the most exciting one. The reason is, for once, that having a mind is a rather widespread and well-known phenomenon: after all, everyone able to read this review or to join a discussion on its subject has — in the colloquial view — a mind. On the other hand,  so many aspects of the concept »mind« are thoroughly unclear: a number of quite serious scientists and philosophers have even concluded that we, as humans, are not at all able o gain a distinct understanding in that matter. What are the relations between physical and mental events? Do animals have a mind? Do we have a free will or are all our actions just determined by neuro-physiologic mechanisms? These types of questions are not yet answered in a satisfying way. Quite obviously, a lot of social, juridical, and political institutions structuring our daily life depend on the answer of these questions.  They are still heavily debated to this date.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Dr. Jörg R.J. Schirra, Brunnenstrasse 19, 66557 Illingen, Germany. Email: joerg@jrjs.de


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