Hypnosis - the state exists!

Researchers have at last found evidence that seems to prove beyond doubt that hypnosis exists. Yet for many people this statement may be a surprise - they have assumed that hypnosis had long been proven to exist. 

In fact, the actual existence of hypnosis has been a matter of some dispute. This may have simply been because of the subtlety of the state, which meant that our current technology was not able to measure possible indicators.

Poor research

But it may also have been to do with many of the studies carried out.  These would be conducted by researchers who had little or no knowledge of the state and they would ask some volunteers to 'pretend' they were in hypnosis.

Sounds fine, except that this assumes that if 'pretenders' listened to an Induction they wouldn't actually enter hypnosis. That is like saying to someone, 'Pretend that you like this music,' and then asking them to give a reaction to it. Isn't it just possible that the person 'pretending' really might like the music?

And likewise, isn't it likely that someone listening to an Induction with their eyes closed might enter a hypnotic state? Yet this possibility does not seem to have been considered in many of the studies I've read - extraordinarily.

The outcome from many studies therefore was that those supposedly 'pretending' to be in hypnosis behaved in ways that were identical to those who did go into hypnosis. And on that basis many studies concluded that there was no specific hypnotic state.


The strange stare

But at last we have a study that did not use false logic. In fact, it operated in a very different way to most previous studies and used something previously ignored:  the strange stare that many clients have if they open their eyes whilst in hypnosis.

After all the cliches about hypnosis in the 1950s 'B' movies, it turns out that this was the way to show that hypnosis does exist as a specific state.

Ironically, this stare had previously not been considered by researchers to have any major importance and has therefore, until now, never been studied in any detail, probably due to the fact that we can observe it in only some hypnotized people.

The study

The study was done by a Norwegian research group working with highly hypnotisable participants who could be hypnotised and dehypnotised by just using a one-word cue. The change between hypnotic state and 'normal' state could thus be varied in seconds.

The researchers used high-resolution eye-tracking methodology, presenting a set of well-established oculomotor tasks that trigger automatic eye behaviour. They found the glazed stare was accompanied by objectively measurable changes in automatic, reflexive eye behaviour that could not be imitated by non-hypnotised participants.

The consequences

This outcome means that hypnosis can no longer be regarded as mental imagery that takes place during a totally ordinary state of consciousness. in addition, the result may have significant consequences for psychology and cognitive neuroscience since it provides evidence of the existence of a conscious state not previously confirmed by science.

Hypnosis has had a long and controversial history in psychology, psychiatry, and neurology. For over 100 years researchers have debated whether a special hypnotic state exists or whether it is just about using cognitive strategies and mental imagery in a normal mind-state.

Until now many researchers regarded the hypnotic state to be just a popular myth in psychology. This research changes things dramatically.

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by the Academy of Finland.


Other articles you might like:

Why you don't want money next year - Delay Discounting

Writing great hypnotherapy essays

Deliberate practise - achieve almost anything

Pacing and Matching - does it work?



Alan Davidson: hypnoad@yahoo.com

UK:  01202 423111   (Outside UK: 44 1202 423111)