Hypnotic Responsiveness: Part 3 of 3

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A comparison of people who were simulating hypnosis with other people in a trance state showed that the simulators were more responsive to suggestion; their fingers felt more anesthetized or they were more able to recreate the age regressed state of a child. In other words, the trance state might not be necessary. The subjects might simply be trying to do what they think is expected of them-that is. playing a role (Sarbin & Coe, 1972). But just because simulation can mimic real hypnosis doesn’t mean that there is no such thing as hypnosis (Orne, 1977). We don’t prove that some effect is a fake or a nonphenomenon simply by showing that it can be produced in another way, There is evidence, however, that simulation can be distinguished from true hypnosis. In one case subjects were given a suggestion to be carried out in the laboratory and later on, to run their hands through their hair whenever they heard the word experiment Both simulators and hypnotized subjects complied with the suggestion when they were in the psychological laboratory. But outside the laboratory, in their normal everyday world the simulators no longer responded.

Subjects who had actually been hypnotized, however, continued to run their hands through their hair when they heard the word. It was as if the simulators dropped the role they were playing when they thought it was no longer relevant. The previously hypnotized subjects, on the other hand went on responding to the posthypnotic suggestion. Orne, who with his colleagues conducted this demonstratoon (Orne, Sheenan, & Evans, 1968), later added: “Regardless of how we describe hypnosis, it is real in the sense that the subject believes   in his experience and is not merely acting as if he did” (Orne, 1977). This is not to say that simulators don’t play their role quite well- some even reporting visual or auditory hallucinations. But when later questioned about their experiences and cautioned to answer honestly, many deny that the hallucinations were ever experienced, while others describe events that were far less dramatic than those they had earlier reported.

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