Has Self-Hypnosis Destroyed The Hypnosis Stroop Task Performance Legend?
At Bournemouth University, Adam Eason has explored the effect of training in advanced engagement in hypnosis upon the effectiveness of the word blindness suggestion during Stroop task performance. Suggestions for word blindness given during hetero-hypnosis sessions have greatly improved performance in the Stroop Task, and has helped raise the importance of hypnosis in cognitive neuroscience. What is producing the effect of the word blindness suggestion? The posthypnotic suggestion for word blindness described in the literature initially suggested that subjects can acquire abilities through hypnosis that they do not possess when responding non-hypnotically. However, the suggestion for word blindness had comparable effects without a hypnotic induction.
Self-hypnosis is associated with attentive-receptive absorption, expectation, and a favourable attitude that form a positive cognitive mindset resulting in a heightened compliance with self-directed suggestion. Advanced engagement in hetero-hypnosis sessions can be created by applying the hypnotic mindset and skills learned in a research-informed self-hypnosis programme and applying them during hetero-hypnosis sessions.
Cold control theory explains hypnosis in terms of individuals disabling their awareness of intention to act, yet still act. This strategic disabling of intention suggests individuals control their awareness of the intention to act to the point that it feels as if the act is occurring by itself/automatically. A key component of this theory is that it predicts that hypnosis does not confer any special abilities such that one cannot achieve anything under hypnosis or suggestion that cannot be achieved outside of hypnosis or the influence of a suggestion. The word blindness suggestion effect (WBSE) might therefore represent a challenge to Cold Control theory because the reduction in the Stroop effect that results from the suggestion has not been shown to be achievable via other means (thus far). For Cold Control to be true, it would have to be shown that either a reduction in Stroop interference is achievable via voluntary means or that the WBSE is achievable through some other process that is not related to hypnosis or suggestion.
In recent work, Dienes et al. have argued that this other process is imagination. Our control group therefore received an imagination skills programme. Training participants to more fully engage in hypnosis to improve the hypnotic response then represents a test of Cold Control: If training in hypnosis and responding to suggestions improves the WBSE (by further reducing Stroop interference and/or reducing semantic conflict) then the WBSE is a consequence of hypnosis and suggestion, contrary to the argument posited by Dienes et al. If on the other hand, training in hypnosis and responding to suggestions does not improve the WBSE, but does improve responses to other suggestions, it would support the notion that the WBSE is not a consequence of hypnosis and suggestion.
In this lecture, full findings are shared publicly for the first time and important implications for understanding the very nature of self-hypnosis are highlighted.
I have been in full-time clinical practice as a hypnotherapist since 1996 and have run my Anglo European College of Therapeutic Hypnosis since 1997 as well as lecturing for the University of Bournemouth and the Royal Society of Medicine at Masters degree level. I am the author of several books on hypnosis, broadcast the highly respected and popular 'Hypnosis Weekly' podcast and the 'Hypnosis Geek' YouTube channel. With my PhD research, I authored the first systematic review and meta-analysis of the efficacy of clinical applications of self-hypnosis to feature in a peer-reviewed academic journal.