The Psychology of Health - Dr Kate Faasse

What is this research about?

My research interests in health psychology include the role of expectations in health, the psychology of physical symptoms and how symptom experiences influence perceptions of health and illness, and the psychology of medication use.

I’m particularly interested in the placebo effect – when inert placebo treatments, like sugar pills, produce improvements in health such as pain relief or lowered blood pressure.

My research also looks at the ‘dark side’ of placebos – or the nocebo effect – which is when those same placebo treatments cause unpleasant outcomes or side effects, like headache or nausea. Both placebo and nocebo effects are driven by psychological and social factors including expectations (of benefit or of harm), information given about a treatment, how the treatment is delivered, and people’s past experiences with medicines. My work looks at these, and other mind-body factors that contribute to health and treatment outcomes.

This is particularly important in medical care; many people take one or more medications on a regular basis, and increasing treatment effectiveness and reducing side effects is important in improving health outcomes, increasing quality of life, increasing treatment use, and managing healthcare costs.

My research program uses both laboratory-based experimental approaches as well as observational studies. It looks at the influence of social modelling of both side effects and medication benefits (including the role of news and social media), perceptions of medication branding and generic drugs, how having a choice of treatments (compared to no choice) impacts health outcomes, and investigating strategies to enhance the placebo effect and reduce the nocebo effect both in experimental studies and clinical care.

I also explore the role of psychological factors in large scale health threats, including emerging infectious diseases such as the Ebola virus and H1N1, to better understand public responses and perceived versus expert-defined risk from these health threats. 


To fins out more about this research, please contact Dr Kate Faasse