Alia Crum
Assistant Professor of Psychology, Stanford University

Mindset matters

The placebo response has been recognized within western medicine for centuries. Yet—since the advent of the randomized control trial—it has been marginalized as an effect that should be ignored or controlled for.  In this talk I will argue that placebo-like effects can be explained, in part, by the role of mindset—the psychological lens through which information is perceived, organized, and interpreted. First, I will present a selection of studies demonstrating how mindsets can affect health outcomes in various stages of disease including a) influencing the effects of genetic predisposition b) shaping the benefits of of health behaviors such as diet, exercise and stress and c) improving the physiological effects of treatment.  Second, I will discuss how elements of the social context such as the patient-provider interaction can moderate the effect of mindset on health outcomes.  Finally, I will discuss how an improved understanding of mindsets and the social context can empower individuals and healthcare providers to harness the power of mindset to improve health and reduce unnecessary suffering.


Dr. Alia Crum is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Stanford University.  She received her PhD from Yale University and BA degree from Harvard University.  Dr. Crum’s research focuses on how changes in subjective mindsets—the lenses through which information is perceived, organized, and interpreted—can alter objective reality through behavioral, psychological, and physiological mechanisms.  Her work is, in part, inspired by research on the placebo effect, a robust demonstration of the ability of the mindset to elicit healing properties in the body.  She is interested in understanding how mindsets affect important outcomes outside the realm of medicine, in domains such as exercise, diet and stress.  More specifically, Dr. Crum aims to understand how mindsets can be consciously and deliberately changed through intervention to affect physiological and psychological well-beings.  To date, her research has won several awards, most recently, the NIH New Innovator Award.  In addition to her academic research and teaching, Dr. Crum has worked as a clinical psychologist for the VA healthcare system and an organizational trainer and consultant, creating, delivering, and evaluating workshops on mindset change and stress management for organizations including UBS, Colgate Palmolive and the United States Navy.