Scientific hypnosis research
There has been over a century of careful scientific study of hypnosis. Researchers, typically in the fields of psychology & medicine, have been interested in finding out what hypnosis is, how it works, and how effective it is as a clinical treatment. Some of the first scientists to become interested in studying hypnosis were doctors (notably Liebault and Coue at the Nancy school, and Charcot and Janet at Salpetriere) who developed theories to explain what they saw. In the twentieth century there were teams researching hypnosis at top American universities including Harvard and Stanford, as well as in top English and European universities. Modern hypnosis research tends to be more divided along academic and clinical lines.
Clinical hypnosis research
Clinical hypnosis research asks the following types of questions:
- What conditions can be treated effectively with hypnosis?
- How can hypnotic techniques best be used clinically?
- What kinds of patients benefit most from hypnosis?
- Can hypnotic suggestion reduce pain? In what circumstances?
- Is hypnosis useful on its own? Or is it best used alongside other treatments?
Clinical studies have looked at how effective hypnosis is as a clinical treatment for many conditions, including:
Academic hypnosis research
Academic hypnosis research tends to be more concerned with finding out what hypnosis is, and how it works. Some questions that academic research has asked include:
- How can we define hypnosis and suggestion?
- Does hypnosis affect memory recall?
- How does hypnosis affect attention? Is attention in hypnosis diffuse or focussed?
- How does the brain process hypnotic suggestions?
In the recent literature hypnosis has been used to explore a wide range of phenomenon including:
- Memory (Barnier, 2002; Cox & Barnier, 2003)
- Attention (Raz et al, 2002; Egner et al, 2005)
- Perception & hallucination (Szechtman, 1998; Kosslyn, 2000)
- Pain (Rainville et al, 1997; Derbyshire et al, 2004)
- Voluntary motor control (Halligan et al, 2000; Blakemore et al, 2003)
Instrumental vs. Intrinsic
Hypnosis is also interesting to researchers because of what it can tell us about consciousness, perception, action, and attention. Researchers are increasingly using it as a tool to investigate other aspects of psychology.
Put another way, there are two broad types of hypnosis research, instrumental and intrinsic:
|Instrumental Hypnosis Research||Intrinsic Hypnosis Research|
uses hypnosis as an experimental tool to investigate other things such as memory, consciousness, pain, perception, or action.
is interested in what hypnosis is, and how it works.
How effective is hypnosis as a pain reliever?
What processes operate during memory retrieval?
How do we perceive real and imaginary objects?
Is hypnosis an altered state of consciousness?
What areas of the brain operate to enact hypnotic suggestions?
Are some people more hypnotisable than others?
Finally, brain imaging studies are helping us to understand more about what hypnosis is and how it works.
Journal of hypnosis
Like any other scientific research investigation of hypnosis are published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. These include: the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, Contemporary Hypnosis, and the Journal of Mind Body Regulation. Hypnosis research is often published in mainstream psychological and medical journals including: Science, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Consciousness and Cognition, Personality and Individual Differences, NeuroImage.