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July 1997 - English PDF Print E-mail

The International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis
Volume 45, Number 3 - July 1997 - English


Convergence in understanding hypnosis? Perhaps, but perhaps not quite so fast.

The study of hypnosis has been plagued by conflict. Although a more recent trend has been the search for convergence among disparate points of view, two highly salient issues remain contentious: the question of whether hypnosis involves alterations in consciousness, and the nature and correlates of individual differences in hypnotic response. Theoretical convergence is a laudable goal, but not at the expense of obscuring the complexity of hypnosis as a state of altered consciousness, a cognitive skill, and a social interaction. It is asserted that perhaps the best prescription for convergence in hypnosis is the cautious conviction advocated by K. S. Bowers (1966, 1976) which is clearly exemplified in his own research.


What this field needs is a good nomological network.

Asserts that research in the field of hypnosis lacks a coherent structure on which to build. This lack of a mature nomological network stems from fundamental disagreements concerning the construct validity of hypnotizability, which in turn stem in part from different research practices across laboratories. It is asserted that for these reasons, the field has had less impact on psychology and medicine than is warranted by the numerous sophisticated scientific studies that have been conducted during the past three decades.


EEG concomitants of hypnotic susceptibility.

Asserts that the most solid relationship between electrocortical activity and hypnotizability exists in the EEG theta frequency range. Given the stable electrocortical differences found in high and low susceptible individuals, the question arises whether we can use additional EEG measures to help understand the nature of these individual differences. One possible alternative is the pointwise or fractal dimension, which was examined during baseline conditions with high and low hypnotic susceptible individuals. The dimensionality measures suggest that high susceptible individuals display underlying brain patterns associated with imagery, whereas low susceptible individuals show patterns consistent with cognitive activity (i.e., mental math). Future research should address the exact nature of the underlying process (imagination, effortlessness, suggestibility, etc.) seen in high and low susceptible individuals.


Why scientific hypnosis needs psychoanalysis (or something like it).

Contends that some contemporary hypnosis theories are restricted and narrow in scope, rendering them unnecessarily isolated from mainstream models of human development, psychopathology, and personality functioning. They seem to explain hypnosis and little else. The author contrasts this with psychoanalysis, which, although sometimes overly expansive, does nonetheless lend itself to the generation of specific hypothesis via careful deduction from a general theory of human behavior and experience. For illustrative purposes, the author criticizes the sociocognitive perspective of hypnosis contending that at present it is too narrowly inductive in focus, overvalues social influence, and has its own problems with reification. Remedies for these difficulties are suggested.


Hypnotic theorizing: Spring cleaning is long overdue.

Since the beginnings of animal magnetism and hypnosis, clinical and experimental theories have developed mostly in isolation. On the clinical side, armchair theorizing, based on clinicians' observations and interpretations of their clients' narratives, have laid the foundations of most theories, past and present. On the experimental side, attachment to specific theories has guided researchers in their choice of methodologies and designs. What seemed important was to show how correct one's preferred view was or how incorrect the other could be. This one-sided perception led to an experimental stalemate where most experiments could be interpreted from any point of view. It is asserted that if the tendency to theorize on what one sees, hears, and believes must come to an end, the practice of performing truncated experiments dedicated to one's preferred theory must also be relegated to the past. Whether clinical or experimental, the use of concepts or constructs that cannot be clearly operationalized should be dismissed to avoid the type of serious social consequences the hypnotic community has been facing in the past decades.


Admissibility and per se exclusion of hypnotically elicited recall in American courts of law.

The case State v. Mack (1980) ruled that hypnotically elicited testimony is per se excluded from Minnesota law courts; this court also ruled that police could employ hypnosis in an attempt to construct an independently corroborated case. In recent years, there have been moves to rescind this exclusion which raises a question of the probative value of such additional information when it is uncorroborated. This situation is compared with that of the polygraph as an index of deception. Like hypnosis, it is excluded per se in most American jurisdictions. Some legal decisions in Wisconsin are used to illustrate one alternative to the per se exclusion approach. Admissibility of scientific evidence in American courts of law has been based on a criterion of "general acceptability within the relevant scientific community," as first elucidated in Frye v. US (1923). Recently, the US Supreme Court overturned the Frye decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc. (1993), by making general acceptability but one of several admissibility criteria. Three Daubert-based decisions, one involving hypnosis and all concerned with "recovered repressed memories," indicate some problems in law posed by Daubert.


The state of the "state" debate in hypnosis: A view from the cognitive-behavioral perspective.

Carefully conducted studies in laboratories around the world have refined the understanding of hypnotic phenomena and helped identify the critical variables that interact to elicit them. With the maturation of the cognitive-behavioral perspective and the growing refinement of state conceptions of hypnosis, questions arise whether the state debate is still the axis about which hypnosis research and theory pivots. Although heuristic value of this debate has been enormous, the cognitive constraints of metaphors and conceptual frameworks must be guarded against.


Automaticity and hypnosis: A sociocognitive account.

Provides an overview of a new sociocognitive theory of suggested involuntariness in hypnosis, developed in conjunction with I. Kirsch. The theory is based on the following ideas. First, high hypnotizable participants enter hypnosis with a conscious intention to feel and behave in line with suggested experiences and movements. Second, people who are easily hypnotized hold firm expectations that they will succeed in following the suggestions of the hypnotist. Third, the intention and expectation in turn function as response sets in the sense that they trigger the hypnotic response automatically. Fourth, given the intention to feel and behave in line with the hypnotist's suggestions, hypnotized individuals show no hesitation to experience the suggested movements as involuntary because (a) these movements are actually triggered automatically, and (b) the intention to cooperate with the hypnotist as well as the expectation to be able to do so create a heightened readiness to experience these actions as involuntary.


Have the hypnotic susceptibility scales outlived their usefulness?

Hypnosis experiments often involve preselecting high- and low-scoring participants on the basis of one or more hypnotic suggestibility scales, and then studying the differences between these 2 groups. A number of possible critiques of this method are entertained in this article. For example, sociocognitive theorists would seem better advised to directly manipulate the variable or variables they believe underlie the differences in hypnotic susceptibility, and neodissociative theorists would seem well advised to question whether the scales muddle important distinctions in underlying mechanisms. In addition, parallels are drawn with developments in other areas of research, such as intelligence.


Suggestibility or hypnosis: What do our scales really measure?

Conceptually, hypnotizability has always been defined as the increase in suggestibility produced by hypnosis. In practice, hypnotizability is measured as suggestibility following a hypnotic induction. The data indicate that these are different constructs. Although the induction of hypnosis increases suggestibility to a substantial degree, the correlation between hypnotic and nonhypnotic suggestibility approximates the reliability coefficients of so-called hypnotizability scales. This indicates that hypnotic susceptibility scales are better measures of waking suggestibility than they are of hypnotizability. It is asserted that the discordance between conceptual and operational definitions of hypnotizability can be resolved either by changing the conceptual definitions of hypnosis and hypnotizability or by reinterpreting hypnotizability scores as indexes of nonhypnotic, imaginative suggestibility.


Context and consistency: The Canadian connection.

Issues related to context effects in hypnosis research are briefly reviewed. The contributions of Canadian hypnosis researchers to current theory and research on context effects are acknowledged. K. S. Bowers (1973) emphasized the scope and subtlety of contextual influences on correlates of hypnotic suggestibility, and promoted the development of a consistency motivation theory of context effects. N. P. Spanos et al (1993) generalized context effects within the domain of hypnosis, prompting extension of this work to general personality measurement. Implications of findings on consistency motivation for hypnosis research are discussed in terms of person by situation interactions.

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