Hypnosis stops being hypnotic when it’s described to participants as ‘relaxation’. This finding by Balaganesh Ghandi and David Oakley at UCL’s Hypnosis Unit complements earlier research showing the opposite effect: that relaxation labelled as ‘hypnosis’ can be hypnotic.
Ghandi and Oakley performed an identical, standard hypnotic induction on 70 participants. But whereas half of them were told their suggestibility was to be tested “whilst in hypnosis”, after they had completed a “hypnotic induction” to help them become “hypnotised”, the other half were told their suggestibility would be tested “whilst being relaxed”, after they had followed “relaxation instructions” to help them become “relaxed”. The hypnotic procedure itself contained no mention of the words ‘hypnosis/hypnotised/hypnotic’ but instead talked about ‘absorption’ or being ‘absorbed’.
The researchers said “…the extent to which suggestion affects conscious experience appears to depend more on the individual’s perception that the context can be identified as ‘hypnosis’ and on the beliefs and expectations that this raises, than it does on intrinsic properties of the induction procedure itself”.
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