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1. Hypnosis. Activity and discussion: Have you ever arrived at some destination or other and realised you didn’t remember getting there? Can you think of other examples…
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  • 1. Hypnosis. Activity and discussion: Have you ever arrived at some destination or other and realised you didn’t remember getting there? Can you think of other examples of occasions when you have done something without any conscious memory of doing it? We have already seen that altered states of consciousness may be reached through everyday means such as sleep and dreaming. We will now explore additional routes for changing consciousness. Basics about consciousness #Most psychologists agree that we have different states of waking “consciousness” as well as altered states of “awareness” within sleep and dreaming # Freud had three types of consciousness – conscious, preconscious and unconscious. Read them up in your books. #Oakley has used a similar kind of typology but with simple awareness, consciousness and self awareness. #We can also have subtly altered states of awareness in various conditions- for example: Drugs such as LSD alter awareness Psychosis involves a loss of awareness. Autism shows a defect in the level of awareness Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), sometimes referred to as Multiple Personality Disorder, is where consciousness and awareness are fragmented. We explored the issues and controversies surrounding DID watching the films “Three Faces of Eve” (based on the case of Christine Sizemore) and in the documentary “The Woman with Five Personalities” in class. The classification of Multiple Personality is controversial and the general public confuses this disorder with schizophrenia but schizophrenic disorders are very different. Also some mental health professionals have questioned the existence of DID. Similarly Hypnosis is questioned by some.
  • 2. Hypnosis Hypnosis is generally agreed to be a state of heightened suggestibility characterised by relaxation and intense focus. However, Barber (1969) suggests that hypnosis is simply the result of experimental “demand characteristics” i.e. the participant pleases the experimenter and tries not to “ruin the show”. On the other hand a convincing theory which supports the idea of hypnosis is a unique and separate of consciousness is that of “dissociation” (a separating of consciousness). Under hypnosis one part of consciousness seems to be aware and observing hypnotic suggestions while a separate type of consciousness seems to be responding to the suggestion. If you have driven somewhere “on automatic pilot “, then the fact you managed to make all the right turns, stopped at the stop signs ( one assumes!) and manoeuvred through traffic is evidence of “highway hypnosis” In the same way people can be hypnotised and one part of their mind will be unaware of strong sensations of pain while another part seems to be watching and monitoring. Practical Applications of Hypnosis Apart from hypnotic recall, hypnotic regression and hypnotic reincarnation or show time mesmerism, there are other uses for hypnosis! One example is the control of pain. Before the discovery of ether and chloroform hypnosis was widely used with surgical patients. For some time now hypnosis has been successful when anaesthetics cannot be used and in the treatment of chronic pain (Hilgard and Le Baron 1984). Hypnosis has also been used in medical areas where patients have a high degree of fear and misinformation such as dentistry. Because pain is affected by tension and anxiety, techniques such as hypnosis that help to relax the patient are useful. Hypnosis is also used in psychotherapy to help patients relax and has some success in the treatment of phobias, in attempts to lose weight, stop cigarette smoking and improve study habits (Long 1986). Some individuals use self hypnosis to regulate their pain and many athletes use self hypnosis techniques of mental imagery and focussed attention during sporting events.
  • 3. Theories of Hypnosis The two main theories of hypnosis are state and non state theories. State theories State theorists believe that hypnosis involves special processes and is qualitively distinct from the non hypnotised condition. The state theory consists of the dissociation model referred to earlier. The “hidden observer” is a part of consciousness which is aware of events surrounding the hypnotic experience. This can be shown by using the cold pressor test, which does seem to show that conscious self awareness can be dissociated from other forms of behaviour. The most popular of these approaches is that of Hilgard (1977) whose dissociation model proposes that in hypnosis experiences are dissociated or separated from each other by “amnesiac barriers” through hypnotic suggestion, which can determine which experiences are accessible to conscious awareness. An important feature of the Hilgard model is the “hidden observer”. This is a component or segment of consciousness which remains aware during the hypnotic experience providing a route to awareness and able to comment on the actions and feelings of the hypnotised participant and is demonstrated by the cold pressor test and in other ways. For example Hilgard (1973) induced hypnotic deafness in a participant but also suggested that he should raise a finger when asked if there was any part of him that could still hear. Deafness was convincingly established but a finger was still raised when the question was asked. In Hilgards view this is the hidden observer monitoring the situation and replying to the question without the participants awareness. Non–State explanations of hypnosis This approach accepts hypnotic phenomena but proposes they can be explained using well established psychological principles. The most important being: #Compliance and demand characteristics The participant enters a social contract with the hypnotist, leading to the expectation that they will be hypnotised and should comply with suggestions. If it is a public show there are additional social pressures not to spoil the performance. The situation has powerful demand characteristics as studied by Orne Spanos (1982) #Role expectation. Participants often believe in hypnosis and accept that they will fulfil the role of a hypnotised subject.
  • 4. Evaluation In support of their position non state theorists point to other observations: # All hypnotic phenomena can be imitated by non hypnotised people, indistinguishably from the hypnotised (Barber 1979). However this does not seem a powerful argument. People can imitate clinical depression successfully but that is not to say clinical depression does not exist. The crucial point is that the hypnotised person believes they are in a different state, whilst the imitator does not. (McIlveen 1995). # No measure of brain activity successfully distinguishes between hypnotised and non hypnotised states consistently. (Sarbin and Slagle 1972). Some researchers feel that hypnosis is associated with specific changes in brain electrical activity (Crawford and Gruzlier – 1992) but findings are hard to replicate and are often also found in states of relaxation and meditation also. On the other hand this may not be critical. It is possible we are looking at the wrong measures or the wrong part of the brain for hypnotic phenomena. #Hypnotic induction and relaxation training can lead to the same levels of hypnotic susceptibility. Council and Kenny (1992) showed that expert ratings also failed to distinguish between self reports of subjects experiencing hypnotic induction from those experiencing relaxation training and they conclude that the state of consciousness produced by the two procedures is indistinguishable. #People most susceptible to hypnotic induction score highly on measures of fantasy and imagination, suggesting that these are important elements in the hypnotic experience. Scales measuring susceptibility show about 15% of the population are highly susceptible to hypnosis and that those subjects are found to have high scores on fantasy and imagination measures also. Conclusions There is no clear answer to the state versus non state controversy. The state theory is almost impossible to disprove as you can always argue that the precise markers for an altered state have not yet been discovered. Phenomena such as “hidden observer” and hypnotic induced pain reduction are not easily explained by conventional psychology. As Gregg and Wagstaff (1990) concluded, regardless of the view you take at least the hypnotised subject is no longer seen as a passive automaton blindly following instructions but as an active agent in the procedure. There is also the final argument, that if hypnosis works to alleviate pain, for instance, the academic argument is in practical terms irrelevant. Wagstaff (1995) indicates that research and debate in hypnosis flourishes but we do not seem to be any further forward in deciding whether there is an altered state of consciousness we can call “hypnosis”.
  • 5. Traditionally this area of psychology was an embarrassment and considered best left to the psychiatrists and even para psychologists. However, the extremely high standard of research in this area now firmly places it within mainstream psychology. Self check 1. What is DID? 2. Name Oakleys three levels of awareness. 3. Give an example of each of Oakley’s three levels of awareness. 4. What are the effects produced by LSD and Mescaline on self awareness? 5. What is the state explanation of hypnotic phenomena? 6. What is the non state explanation? 7. Give two strengths and two weaknesses of the state theory of hypnosis 8. Give two strengths and two weaknesses of the non state explanations of hypnosis. Fill in the blanks in the following passage choosing the correct term from the list below. Imitated, brain electrical activity, relaxation training, demand characteristics, fantasy and imagination, role expectation. A participant complies with a hypnotist so as not to spoil the outcome. The situation therefore has powerful (1) _____________________.
  • 6. Participants also often believe in hypnosis and fulfil their (2) ___________________ According to Barbar (1979) hypnosis can be (3) ____________ by non hypnotised people Some researchers feel that hypnosis is associated with specific changes in (4) _______________________________ (Crawford and Gruzlier 1992) Hypnotic induction and (5) _____________________________ can have similar levels of hypnotic suggestibility. People susceptible to hypnosis score high on measures of (6) ____________________ Answers: Self check 1 Dissociative Identity Disorder. 2. Three levels of awareness are simple awareness, consciousness and self awareness. 3. Simple awareness – reflexes or classical conditioning. Consciousness – memory, reasoning or complex learning Self Awareness – self image or self concept. 4. There is a profound loss of self awareness along with hallucinations and delusions. 5, 6, 7, 8 – select from the text!
  • 7. Cloze exercise The words that fill the gaps are as follows 1. Demand characteristics 2. Role expectation 3. Imitated 4. Brain electrical activity 5. Relaxation training 6. Fantasy and imagination.
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