Interesting paper suggesting that hypnosis basically involves little else than creating in the person-to-be-hypnotized a very strong belief and expectation that they will in fact be hypnotized, and then setting up things which reinforce that belief... and that the combination of social pressure and the person's own expectations is then enough to achieve all the things demonstrated in e.g. stage hypnosis, such as altered states of consciousness, forgetting things that the hypnotist told you to forget, not noticing aspects of reality that the hypnotist tells you to ignore, etc.

These basically happen because the hypnotized person is making themselves do those things (e.g. distracting themselves whenever they're about to think of a thing that they were instructed to forget), but because they've been given the expectation that their behaviors emerge from the hypnosis, they attribute their own actions to the hypnosis rather than themselves. A pretty strong example of "you see what you expect to see".

> We define hypnosis as a situation in which imaginative suggestions for changes in thoughts, feelings, and actions are provided to a person in a context defined as “hypnosis,” with the expectation that the participant will respond to them in a compelling manner consistent with his or her beliefs about hypnosis, often derived from the broader sociocultural context. [...] It can be said that someone is “hypnotized” when he or she responds to imaginative suggestions that are presented following a hypnotic induction ritual, which may be elaborate or as simple as merely defining the situation as “hypnosis.” [...]

> Historically, hypnosis has been associated with inductions as varied as eye closure, focusing on an internal stimulus (such as breathing) or an external stimulus (such as the proverbial “dangling watch” popularized in fiction and the movies), and perhaps most commonly with instructions to relax and feel at ease. Regardless of what induction method is used, it is crucial to clearly define the events as “hypnotic” in nature, to distinguish the social interaction from everyday communications, and to mark the special occasion as one in which consciousness or capabilities will be optimally and radically expanded beyond the mundane. That is, what is paramount is that the hypnotist presents communications in such a way that they are deemed to be “hypnotic,” as defined by the socio-cultural context. [...]

> Inductions often include words and phrases that are commonly associated with passive or receptive mental states (e.g., sleep, relaxation), encouraging openness to experience and readiness to respond to suggestions that focus attention. Additionally, inductions that suggest relaxation and sleepiness discourage an analytical attitude and searching for causes of behavior outside the framework of hypnosis (Lynn, Kirsch, & Hallquist, 2008; Lynn, Rhue, & Weekes, 1990). In short, hypnotic inductions invite absorption in internal and external experiences, while they discourage focusing attention on stimuli that compete with immersion in suggestion-related experiences (Lynn et al., in press).

> We suggest that these functions of the induction facilitate the seeming automatic unfolding of hypnotic responses and decrease the sense of conscious deliberation that sometimes accompanies actions in more mundane situations. [...]

> Defining the situation as hypnosis activates sociocultural schemas and expectancies regarding hypnosis, including the idea that hypnosis produces an altered state of consciousness that enhances suggestibility. Accordingly, it is not surprising that many participants experience alterations in consciousness, particularly when the suggestions provided explicitly call for such alterations in consciousness. Still, most individuals do not, in fact, experience hypnosis as a “trance,” and virtually all of the effects participants’ experience during hypnosis can be experienced with motivating instructions in the absence of defining the situation as hypnosis (Braffman & Kirsch, 1999; McConkey, 1986). [...]

> [...] Participants led to believe that highly hypnotizable individuals typically experienced involuntariness were much more likely to experience suggestion-related involuntariness than participants informed that many individuals do not experience suggestion-related involuntariness. Even though responses to hypnotic suggestions are often described as having an involuntary quality (Hoyt & Kihlstrom, 1987), hypnotic responses consume attentional resources and, as with many everyday actions, are goal-directed (Lynn et al., 1990).

> The goal-directed nature of hypnotic responding may occur outside conscious awareness and represent strategic activity, such as focusing on distracting thoughts and sensations to facilitate responsiveness to a suggestion for amnesia for events that transpired during hypnosis. Indeed, in everyday life, actions are often initiated and executed with little or no awareness of their goal-directed nature (Custers & Aarts, 2010). In hypnosis, the goals and strategies that people adopt are shaped and primed by suggestions (e.g., to hallucinate an object), and the key response set—to respond like an excellent participant—may operate outside of immediate awareness. Moreover, the activation of a suggested idea and accompanying elaborated imagings and sensations may prompt action programs to responses that are executed with seeming automaticity. Because people are often unaware of the automatic nature of their responding and the stimuli that control their behaviors under ordinary circumstances, they tend to attribute the automatic or involuntary nature of their responses during hypnosis to an altered state of consciousness, a trance, or the power of the hypnotist (Lynn & Green, 2011). Accordingly, perceptions of involuntariness may represent a “post hoc self-attribution of causality over actions that are compatible with an individual’s thoughts” regarding the nature of hypnosis (e.g., hypnosis is associated with involuntary responses; Polito et al., 2014, p. 14).
Shared publiclyView activity