Hypnosishypnotism Theories

OF. The British surgeon James Braid (17951860) is credited by some writers to be the discoverer of hypnosis (Braid actually first introduced the term hypnosis in 1852), and others hold that the German physician Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) should be recognized as the founding father of modern hypnosis (which Mesmer called animal magnetism). It was Braid's idea that hypnosis is really nothing more than suggestion, and his significance for psychology is that he took the phenomenon out of the area of mystical explanation and placed it on a physical basis (cf., special process hypothesis - holds that an individual's behavior when under hypnosis is different qualitatively than that of when the person is not under hypnosis). Mesmer applied the principles of magnetism developed in physics to the problems of mental health; his method was to have patients grasp metal rods that protruded from a tub of water filled with iron filings, join hands with other patients, and wait for Mesmer to "lay hands on" them as they became "hypnotized." However, a number of experiments conducted in Paris in 1784, headed by the American statesman and ambassador Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), led to the demise of Mesmer's animal magnetism theory. The phenomenon of hypnosis was known, also, and practiced by the British surgeon James Esdaile (1808-1859) in India, where he performed over 1,000 operations using hypnosis as his only anesthesia; by the English physician John Elliotson (1791-1868), who employed hypnosis in the treatment of a wide variety of medical disorders; by the Frenchmen A. Liebeault, H. Bernheim, and J. M. Charcot, who experimented and published papers on the use of hypnosis in therapy; and by Sigmund Freud and Josef Breuer in Vienna, who used hypnosis to help patients emotionally relive their early childhood traumas (a process called abreaction). Bernheim, like Braid, viewed hypnosis as a manifestation of suggestibility, and this persistent idea became the subject matter of a major research program on hypnosis conducted by the American learning theorist Clark Hull. Other notable practitioners of hypnosis and hypnotherapy were G. Simmel in Germany and J. Hadfield in England, who treated war neuroses during World War I; J. Watkins, who treated battle casualties during World War II; and M. Erickson, who made refinements in the use of hypnosis and expanded its use for a number of personality and behavioral disorders, including den tistry. Many modern counterparts to all the early developments in hypnosis theory still exist today and contribute to both the skepticism and enthusiasm of the phenomenon (cf., nonstate theories of hypnosis - hold that some people do things automatically by suggestion, which is similar to being under hypnosis, and that such individuals are not in a unique state of consciousness but, rather, are under the power of social pressure factors and influence; state theories of hypnosis - posit that for hypnosis to be genuine, the individual must first be placed in a "trance"). Few terms in the psychological lexicon are so thoroughly wrapped in confusion and mysticism as is the term hypnosis. The logical positivist and the cautious scientist find that it is difficult to give a satisfactory definition of hypnosis, and many of the arguments over the nature of the theory of hypnosis depend on which aspects one emphasizes: the hypnotist-patient/subject relationship, the type of suggestions given regarding cognitive, perceptual, and affective distortion, or the ability of some individuals to "relinquish control" temporarily. I. Kirsch and S. J. Lynn suggest that all current theories of hypnosis, including the social-cognitive model, are provisional and incomplete; however, the multiple streams of consciousness hypothesis and the hypnotic state hypothesis need to be abandoned because they are not well supported by data or research in social/cognitive psychology and, in their place, it is suggested that theoretical formulations be employed that are based on concepts such as "response sets," "hierarchical control systems," "associative memory networks," "automatic activation of behavior," "response expectancy," "intention," and "motivation" (cf., Kihlstrom, 1998; Woody & Sadler, 1998). Given such qualifications, a number of standardized scales have been developed and used to measure hypnotic states (e.g., the Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scales; the Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility). Also, dreams may be initiated when under hypnosis, and persons may report dreams in detail that were forgotten apparently in the conscious, waking state. Research by the American psychologist Ernest R. Hilgard (1904-2001) on "hypnotic analgesia" - which deals with the conscious perception of pain -

led to his formulation of the neodissociation theory of hypnosis, involving the concepts of divided consciousness and hidden observer whereby multiple control systems of thought and action are hypothesized as operating independently of each other. A hidden observer is a conjectured, concealed consciousness that is inferred to experience events differently from the hypnotized consciousness, although they operate in a parallel fashion. Hilgard's notion of a hidden observer impacts directly on certain central issues in cognitive psychology, such as the problem of serial versus parallel processing of information. The phenomenon of a hidden observer appears to be similar to the concept of ego-state/ego-state theory (Watkins, 1994). The typical hypnotizable individual does not seem to be weak-willed, gullible, hysterical, passive, or submissive to the dominant personage of the hypnotist. Rather, he or she (there seem to be no gender/sex differences on this issue) is an individual who has the capacity to become totally absorbed in some particular fantasy or ongoing experience and has a considerable ability to empathize with other people, both real and fictitious (cf., Doppelganger phenomenon -the delusion or fantasy that an exact double, twin, or alter ego exists and who looks, and acts, the same as the person who has the fantasy; real-simulator model - an experimental design in which some participants are instructed to simulate hypnosis or some other psychological state, whereas other participants genuinely experience the phenomenon; and role-enactment theory - states that people who are hypnotized and requested to behave in ways they may not ordinarily act, may be complying with the hypnotist's directives without conscious intent, rather than truly being in a "trance;" Sarbin & Coe, 1972). Cognitive flexibility seems to be the hallmark of the hypnotizable person. Due to its methodological sophistication, contemporary hypnosis research is significant in its contributions to general psychological theory (e.g., Barber, 1969; Sheehan & Perry, 1976; Orne, 1979). Hypnotherapy has been used successfully as a treatment for many diverse clinical maladies, among which are the control of pain in general, relief of anxiety, postsurgical depression, impotence, and frigidity. When used in a research context, there are potential limitations to the validity of hypnosis-related data, such as possible deception or faking on the part of the participant concerning the execution of hypnotic instructions, possible demand characteristics of the situation where participants are unconsciously predisposed to perform in ways they believe the experimenter expects, possible lack of external validity (i.e., generalizability of results to the population at large) through the use of specially selected participants (e.g., using only high-scoring persons on standard tests of hypnotic susceptibility), and the extensive use of small sample sizes in studies involving hypnosis. See also DISSOCIATION THEORY; EXPERIMENTER EFFECTS; FREUD'S THEORY OF PERSONALITY.

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