I completed my PhD at the University of Auckland in 2013, followed by three years as a Research Fellow in the Department of Psychological Medicine at the University of Auckland. Following this I moved to Sydney and UNSW.
My research programme in health psychology is concentrated on psychological and social factors that influence medication effectiveness and side effects. In particular, my research utilises the study of placebo and nocebo effects to investigate these factors. My work helps to elucidate the mind-body factors that contribute to treatment outcomes. It is also of clinical importance; many people take one or more medications on a regular basis, and increasing treatment effectiveness and reducing side effects is important in managing healthcare costs, as well as increasing treatment adherence, improving health outcomes, and enhancing patient quality of life. My research program utilises both laboratory-based experimental approaches as well as naturalistic and quasi-experimental methods.
My recent and current research investigates the influence of social modelling of both side effects and medication benefits, perceptions of medication branding and generic drugs, how having a choice of treatments (compared to no choice) impacts health outcomes, the influence of medication price, and how changes in medications (e.g. a change to a different brand or formulation) can impact placebo and nocebo responding. I also explore the interplay of these factors with large scale medication brand or formulation switches (e.g. a change in the inert binding agents of the medication, appearance, taste, packaging, or manufacturer) to understand public responses. These medication switches can have an impact on both an individual and a group level. Such processes appear to hold the potential to elicit health scares and mass psychogenic illness group processes in response to what should be non-consequential brand or formulation changes. Moreover, the extent and nature of the news media coverage in such health scares appears to strongly influence the social and public consequences.