Neuropsychology of hypnosis: Frontal vs. non-frontal functioning in hypnotic and non-hypnotic contexts

Date of Completion

January 1999


Psychology, Clinical|Psychology, Cognitive




Despite ideas that attention plays a key role in hypnosis, the nature of executive functioning, as it relates to hypnosis and hypnotic suggestibility, remains largely unknown. Recently, various theorists have posited conflicting hypotheses about how the frontal lobes of the brain may be affected by hypnosis. Some researchers have predicted a decrement on neuropsychological tests of frontal functions with hypnosis, while others have predicted greater performance on tasks associated with frontal lobe functioning for those people high in hypnotic suggestibility. In the present study, participants high and low in hypnotic suggestibility, as screened by the Stanford Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility, Form C, were tested in hypnotic and non-hypnotic contexts. Several neuropsychological measures were employed, some of which were particularly sensitive to frontal functions. Low suggestibility participants who simulated hypnosis and high and low suggestibility participants who repeated neuropsychological testing without directions regarding hypnosis were included as control groups. Results failed to show any consistent differences between participants high and low in hypnotic suggestibility, either in or out of hypnosis. This lack of findings is interpreted as not supporting either hypothesis regarding a change in frontal functioning with hypnosis. However, limitations of the current study include lack of sensitivity to specific executive functions, such as sustained attention. Furthermore, the fact that the present study did not involve suggestions during hypnosis must be considered in interpreting the results. ^