“It’s All in Your Head”

Magic and Misdirection in Medicine



In this contribution, we examine three stories of beneficent deception in medicine: the placebo machine invites children with treatment-resistant disorders to enter a high-tech machine and let their brains heal themselves; dementia villages extend validation therapy to the lived environment of geriatric care, supporting the illusion of living in the past through architecture; provocative testing relies on tricking patients suspected of fakery into experiencing seizures so that they can receive an expedited diagnosis. Enlisting the concept of misdirection from the realm of magic and theoretical contributions related to ‘stories’ and ‘storying practices’ from Feminist Science and Technologies Studies, we ask of each: Who is being deceived? Which ‘characters’ are given voice when these stories are told? How is deception justified? Following this, we question the onto-epistemological assumptions of reality and causation underlying each story and offer concluding thoughts on how ‘magic’ could be embraced within medicine and research.


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Special Issue: Misdirection in Global Health



How to Cite

Friesen, P. and Dionne, Émilie (2022) “‘It’s All in Your Head’: Magic and Misdirection in Medicine”, Science & Technology Studies, 35(2), pp. 72–96. doi: 10.23987/sts.110291.