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Forget falling into a dream-like state and acting like a chicken - hypnotism, from a scientific perspective, is about achieving the kind of focus you.
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In this state, our minds are even capable of shutting down our autonomic responses - a control system that regulates bodily functions such as the heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, pupillary response, urination, and sexual arousal, mostly without you even noticing it. Think "green" written in blue. Watch the video above to give it a try. So what happens when hypnotised patients are made to perform the Stroop test?

A scientific theory differs from the common meaning of the word — in that a scientific theory is something that has already a massive amount of data to support it, whereas in common usage, the word implies evidence must be found to support the idea.

Watch: Does Hypnotism Have Any Scientific Basis?

To qualify as science, the Hypothesis must come from current understanding of what is already known, and must contain details of a possible explanation to explain in observable and measurable ways what is to be investigated. Science does not attempt to investigate or explain anything non-physical. It does not investigate or can be called upon in an attempt to understand the paranormal or metaphysical. By its very definition the Metaphysical is not physical matter, and the attempt to bring science into such realms is referred to as Pseudoscience claim, belief, or practice which is presented as scientific, but which does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status.

Contrast, the approach of Science with the objective of a therapist, where the aim is to improve the effectiveness of the results of the therapy method they use. They do everything they can to improve, which often includes accepting the explanation they were taught when they learnt the method, and supporting the belief by looking for and finding people and results that confirm what they think. As a general human trait, we are attracted and look for evidence that conforms with what we already believe, and are apt to dismiss and have actual mental processes and behaviors that downplay anything evidence that might contradict it.

The use of the scientific method is designed to prevent this in genuine scientific investigations. Understand that the intentions of a Hypnotherapist is always to provide the best results for their clients, and that their prime focus is on creating results and not a critical look at how those results are obtained.

Often therapeutic results are called miracles or a therapist is remarkable, rather than seeing all results fall within the statistical variation. When a client is helped with hypnosis more than by a medical Doctor, it becomes easy for a therapist to convince themselves that they cured something incurable. Especially when the client tells them that their Doctor can not explain the results, when it is not understand how medical science tries to examine what specific treatment creates what specific result and how.

The Therapist however adds as many approaches and factors as they can and is not concerned with the effects of any one component of the treatment. Hence the gains in suggestibility scores are modest. But why do these gains occur at all? Is it because the person has been put into a trance by the induction? Well suppose, prior to administering a suggestibility scale we substitute the traditional relaxation induction with 'motivating suggestions'.

This is a series of instructions to the effect that we are shortly going to ask subjects to bring to mind certain ideas and situations and it is most important that they concentrate and use the full powers of their imagination to create the suggested images, the feelings, and the experiences as vividly as possible.

This procedure usually leads to increases in suggestibility scores equivalent to those when a classic induction procedure is used Now let's do 'an induction' that is the complete opposite of the traditional procedure. Instead of telling the subjects they are feeling more relaxed, tell them they are feeling more energetic! Say that, instead of narrowing their attention on their inner experiences, they are becoming more alert and aware of everything that is happening around them, as though their mind is 'expanding'.

Under such conditions, suggestibility scores increase overall by the same margin as when a traditional induction procedure is used with just subtle differences amongst some individual items. The same effects are even observed when, in place of a comfortable chair or couch, participants are provided with an exercise bicycle and told to pedal continuously as you administer your 'alert induction' as it is called Laboratory experiments have even obtained the same results using 'sham' inductions such as inhalation of a gas from a cylinder actually air 'that has a powerful effect on suggestibility' or a pill with 'hypnosis' stamped on it What does all this mean?

It seems that for experimental hypnosis the effect of the induction on suggestibility is to prepare or prime subjects to respond to the suggestions to follow - that is, to enhance their involvement and expectation. You can do this with a traditional sleep or relaxation procedure, but you could choose any of the others described above, or even invent your own.

From Genius to Madness

Despite this, as in the clinic, laboratory investigations of hypnosis still use traditional induction methods. But modern theories of hypnosis do not require the concept of trance although one theory the theory of dissociated control retains the hypnotic state as an explanatory concept, probably needlessly The fundamental issue here is that while responding to suggestions does appear to be a key idea in both experimental and clinical hypnosis, is it the case that suggestion and suggestibility as studied in experimental hypnosis is the same as in clinical hypnosis? Or do they involve different psychological processes?

As we know, suggestions, and in particular posthypnotic suggestions, play a significant role in clinical hypnosis. They are intended to bring about appropriate changes in the way patients behave, think and feel in those situations they find problematical.


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However, unlike in the laboratory, the aim of hypnotic suggestions is to bring about desirable of an enduring nature, not changes that last only for the duration of the therapy session unless the intervention is, say a single-session medical or dental intervention ; hence the extensive use of post-hypnotic suggestion in the clinic. Now, in the laboratory it has been found that quite dramatic changes in a person's behaviour, thinking, emotional state and apparent personality can be effected by suggestion and post-hypnotic suggestion and the response feels very compulsive and automatic to the highly suggestible subject.

However there are limitations on their influence once the hypnotic context is terminated.

There is not a great deal of direct evidence that, in the experimental context, hypnotic suggestion itself can bring about the kinds of significant and enduring changes in a person's life that are witnessed when a person responds successfully to therapy. One rejoinder to this is that laboratory studies of suggestion normally consist of one session whereas a course of therapy consists of several treatment sessions.

Is Hypnosis Science? or Pseudoscience?

Also the patient is encouraged to practise self-hypnosis and the therapeutic suggestions may be put on a tape or CD for home use. Perhaps the potency of the hypnotic suggestions is thereby strengthened.


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So what we need to do is to look for other evidence that hypnotic suggestion in the clinical context is the same as that in the experimental context - i. In order to proceed with this question, let's widen the discussion. The term 'suggestion' is used to describe and explain human behaviour in quite a wide range of situations, not just experimental and clinical hypnosis.

For each of these contexts we can identify what the key outcome is of the use of suggestion. In the case of experimental hypnosis , as we have seen the key outcomes are realistic and effortless responses to the suggestions administered. What about everyday examples of persuasion , the outcome of which, as a result of verbal suggestions, is that a person changes their beliefs or agrees to do something that initially they resisted e.

Is the persuader's use of suggestion related to hypnotic suggestion as studied by experimental hypnotists? Now consider interrogative suggestibility. In this case the context is the coercive police interview of a suspect. The key outcome is a false confession to the offence under investigation or false incriminating statements elicited from the suspect. Does suggestion in this context involve the same psychological mechanisms as those for experimental hypnosis? How about placebo , the therapeutic benefit that accrues from simply providing the patient with some treatment, regardless of whether this of itself has any effect on the patient's condition?

The key outcome here is some improvement in the problem being treated improved mood, reduced anxiety, better sleep, fewer headaches, and so on. The placebo effect is often ascribed to 'suggestion'; does this involve the same psychological processes as suggestion in the hypnosis laboratory? Now think about the charismatic, evangelistic preacher who, after a powerful, riveting speech to his or her congregation summons them to 'Come forward!

If you wish to devote your life to Jesus, come forward! Is the preacher using hypnotic suggestion in the same way as the experimental hypnotist? Then we have stage hypnosis. Clearly the intended outcome of the stage hypnotist's suggestions is that the volunteers behave in a dramatic and hilarious manner for the entertainment of the audience.

Vaughan Bell: hypnosis is no laughing matter

And finally we return to hypnotic suggestions in the clinic , where the key outcome is as with placebo beneficial changes in the condition being treated. Are hypnotic suggestions in the clinical equivalent to those studied in the laboratory? How can we address the above questions about the relationship of suggestion in each of these contexts to hypnotic suggestion in the laboratory? One way we can do this is to see whether the outcomes identified in each case are related to the hypnotic suggestibility of the individuals concerned as measured in the laboratory.

In the case of experimental hypnosis we can be confident the measured outcome of a suggestion a realistic and seemingly effortless experience of the suggested effect will be significantly related to the participants' scores on a hypnotic suggestibility scale that does not include that suggestion. Likewise if persuasion were the same as or similar to hypnotic suggestion as defined by experimental hypnosis then we would expect the outcome of such a persuasive influence, namely the targeted change in belief, opinion or behaviour of the person concerned, to be related to their hypnotic suggestibility score.

Hypnosis as medical treatment

In fact the evidence suggests that no such relationship exists. Concerning interrogative suggestibility , there have been no studies directly investigating the hypnotic suggestibility of known false confessors.

Vaughan Bell: hypnosis is no laughing matter | Science | The Guardian

Indirect evidence from measures of interrogative suggestibility presents a mixed picture, but the bulk of the research again indicates no strong relationship Investigation of the relationship between hypnotic suggestibility and positive response to placebo is very limited. However, evidence suggests that responding to placebo analgesia involves different mechanisms to responding to hypno-analgesia.

There has been very little systematic research into stage hypnosis. Participants are initially selected by the entertainer for their positive responding to simple suggestions such as being unable to separate their clenched hands. This means that the participants who find their way to the stage should be somewhat higher than average in their hypnotic suggestibility and not necessarily extremely suggestible and this was the finding of one study of just one stage hypnosis show