Sunday, 17 November 2013

Different Scientific Theories of How Hypnosis Works

The question of how hypnosis actually works is a huge one, and one not currently fully answered. There are however several different theories explained in the following article in some depth. Read the full article here:

"any satisfactory theory of hypnosis should also be a theory bearing on psychology at large" (Hilgard, 1991)

For over a century scientists and clinicians have proposed mechanisms to explain the phenomenon associated with hypnosis. The key theories of hypnosis, historical and current, are presented here. For the more recent models some knowledge of cognitive psychology is useful. Within psychology most current models of how the mind works what is termed 'executive function' make use of the concept of an executive control system (Norman & Shallice, 1980, 1986) (a description of what is meant by executive control is given on this page).

A key debate in hypnosis throughout the twentieth century has been between 'state' vs. 'non-state' theories, properties of these types of theories are given below. Recently attempts have been made to integrate findings from both of these positions.

State non-state theories of hypnosis

TheoryKey AuthorsDescriptionType
Neodissociation theory
Hypnotic phenomenon are produced through a dissociation of high level control systems.
State, Dissociation
Integrated dissociative theory
Woody & Sadler (1998)
A re-integration of dissociated experience and dissociated control theories.
Socio-cognitive theory

Response expectancy theory / Social cognitive theory
Kirsch (1985, 1991, 1994), Lynn
An extension of social learning theory. How a participant expectssuggestions to change their subjective experience lead to a change in experience, and can generate involuntary responses.
Role theory

Integrative cognitive theory
Brown, Oakley

Cold control theory
Dienes, Perner
Draws a distinction between:
  • being in a mental state
  • being aware of being in that state
Argues that successful response to hypnotic suggestion can be achieved by forming the intention to perform an action, without forming higher order thoughts about intending that action
Ego psychological theory

Conditioning and inhibition theory

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