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hypnosis and memory, hypnotic induction, skin effects, time distortion

What is Unique to Hypnosis?

Author: Todd I. Stark

From the Hypnosis FAQ by Todd I. Stark

Web version, revision 2. Last update: February 16, 1997.



There is nothing that we can do under hypnosis that we cannot
do under other conditions. A long series of laboratory experiments
by T.X. Barber and colleagues compared a wide variety of abilities
under hypnosis with abilities under conditions of non-hypnotic
motivational instructions. Similar experiments since then have
all confirmed his results. Any differences found between our abilities
under hypnosis and our abilities when motivated without hypnosis
are extremely subtle. There does not seem to be very much that
is unique about the hypnotic induction, although it is a very
convenient way to create the desired effects in some people.


The thing that is unique to hypnosis is not so much what we are
able to do, but the experience we have while doing it. While there
are other conditions under which we have similar experiences,
few can be controlled and maintained as easily as hypnosis.


The point about hypnosis is that, at least for some people, it
provides a reliable way of making use of our normal capacities
in a more controlled way
. Hypnosis does not provide any special
abilities. It provides a cooperative setting for experiencing
things in response to suggestion that we experience spontaneously
under other conditions.


On the other hand, the simple capacity to make use of various
normal abilities at will can be of extraordinary usefulness. For
example, we have a natural ability to suppress pain and other
sensations, but with hypnosis we are able to reliably make use
of this talent. As another example, we have a natural ability
to imagine things vividly as if they were real, but we can potentially
make more effective use of this talent under hypnosis.


Things sometimes claimed unique to hypnotic responding :


  1. Hypnosis and memory
  2. Amnesia
  3. Effects on the skin
  4. Effects on the immune system
  5. Pain control
  6. Hallucinations
  7. Time distortion
  8. Posthypnotic suggestions

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Suggested Web Resources

Is Hypnosis a Distinct Form of Consciousness?: Scientific American
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