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Brosnan's research on chimpanzees and capuchin monkeys provides invaluable clues to unlocking the complex nature of human morality. Elaborating upon her claims, we explore the role of emotions in basic social interactions, social regulation processes, and morality, all of which may be crucial to both human and nonhuman communities. We then turn to a conceptualization of teasing and play as forums for negotiating norms and the boundaries of acceptable behavior, and focus on the role of emotions in assessing the moral character of others. Finally, we consider points of convergence and departure between human responses to relative deprivation and those observed by Brosnan in primates. We conclude that work such as Brosnan's paves the way for fruitful collaborations between scholars of morality from diverse fields.
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Patients in the placebo arms of randomized controlled trials (RCT) often experience positive changes from baseline. While multiple theories concerning such “placebo effects” exist, peculiarly, none has been informed by actual interviews of patients undergoing placebo treatment. Here, we report on a qualitative study (n = 27) embedded within a RCT (n = 262) in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Besides identical placebo acupuncture treatment in the RCT, the qualitative study patients also received an additional set of interviews at the beginning, midpoint, and end of the trial. Interviews of the 12 qualitative subjects who underwent and completed placebo treatment were transcribed. We found that patients (1) were persistently concerned with whether they were receiving placebo or genuine treatment; (2) almost never endorsed “expectation” of improvement but spoke of “hope” instead and frequently reported despair; (3) almost all reported improvement ranging from dramatic psychosocial changes to unambiguous, progressive symptom improvement to tentative impressions of benefit; and (4) often worried whether their improvement was due to normal fluctuations or placebo effects. The placebo treatment was a problematic perturbation that provided an opportunity to reconstruct the experiences of the fluctuations of their illness and how it disrupted their everyday life. Immersion in this RCT was a co-mingling of enactment, embodiment and interpretation involving ritual performance and evocative symbols, shifts in bodily sensations, symptoms, mood, daily life behaviors, and social interactions, all accompanied by self-scrutiny and re-appraisal. The placebo effect involved a spectrum of factors and any single theory of placebo—e.g. expectancy, hope, conditioning, anxiety reduction, report bias, symbolic work, narrative and embodiment—provides an inadequate model to explain its salubrious benefits.
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This study explores two conflictingmodels of how patients experience mind-bodytherapies; these models frame the design of aclinical trial examining the effects of qigong (a traditional Chinese movementtherapy) on the immune systems of former cancerpatients. Data consist of ethnographic researchand in-depth interviews conducted at the Bostonteaching hospital where the trial is to takeplace. These interviews, with biomedicalresearchers who designed the trial and with theqigong master responsible for the qigong arm of the trial, reveal twofundamentally different understandings of howqigong is experienced and how thatexperience may be beneficial. The biomedicalteam sees qigong as a non-specifictherapy which combines relaxation and exercise. The qigong master, on the other hand,sees qigong as using specific movementsand visualizations to direct mental attentionto specific areas of the body. Thus while thebiomedical team frames qigong as a“mind-body” practice, the qigong masterframes it as a “mind-in-body” practice. This research suggests that the biomedicalnotion that mind-body therapies work byeliciting mental relaxation is only one way ofthinking about how patients experiencemodalities like qigong: indeed,characterizations of mind-body therapies whichemphasize a mental sense of relaxation may bespecific to biomedicine and the cultures whichsurround it. More broadly, the paper arguesthat gaps in understanding between researchersand practitioners may be hindering scientificefforts to assess therapies like qigong.It concludes by proposing that clinical trialsof traditional and alternative therapies buildethnographic inquiry about practitionerexperience into the design process.
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