Associate Professor Ben Colagiuri
Deputy Head of School, Psychology, Sydney University 


In 1998, shortly after arriving for work, a Tennessee-based high school teacher reported a “gasoline-like smell” and feeling dizzy. Soon after, the local emergency ward was inundated with students and staff reporting symptoms of chemical poisoning. Thirty-eight people had such extreme symptoms they were kept overnight. Yet, official investigators failed to find any evidence whatsoever of the school being contaminated. But, how is it that such extreme adverse reactions occur to innocuous agents?

The nocebo effect is the pervasive problem whereby negative information alone can trigger adverse reactions. Importantly, the nocebo effect not only causes significant harm to individuals, such as to the staff and students above, but can even interfere with public policy, including wide-spread resistance to wind farms in Australia due to supposed ‘Wind Turbine Syndrome’.

Developing strategies to inhibit the nocebo effect is therefore critical. In this talk, I will discuss experimental studies using communication (framing) and learning strategies (latent inhibition) to inhibit the nocebo effect..

Speaker bio

Ben Colagiuri is an Associate Professor in the School of Psychology at The University of Sydney. He received his PhD in Psychology in 2010 from the same School. His research explores how expectancies influence human behaviour, with a specific interest in placebo and nocebo effects. To date, he has developed a number of novel experimental models to uncover the mechanisms of placebo and nocebo effects for pain, sleep, nausea, and related conditions.

He has been awarded more than $2.7 million in competitive research funding, including multiple Australian Research Council Discovery Grants, published over 70 scientific papers, and received national and international recognition for his research, including the Australian Psychological Society Early Career Research Award 2014 and the International Society for Behavioural Medicine Early Career Award 2016. His current research is exploring how knowledge about placebo and nocebo effects could be used ethically to improve patient outcomes.

About Seminar Series

The School of Pharmacy Seminar Series involves regular formal presentations of high-quality scholarly work with broad appeal.

The wider School community is invited to attend, including academic and professional staff, special guests, visitors, as well as HDR, postgraduate, masters and honours students.


Online via Zoom (register via link)