Suggestion

Suggestion

[suhg-jes-chuhn, suh-]
Suggestion is the name given to the psychological process by which one person may guide the thoughts, feelings or behaviour of another. For nineteenth century writers on psychology such as William James the words "suggest" and "suggestion" were used in senses very close to those which they have in common speech; one idea was said to suggest another when it brought that other idea to mind. Early scientific studies of hypnosis by scientists such as Clark Leonard Hull led to the extension of the meaning of these words in a special and technical sense (Hull, 1933).

Modern scientific study of hypnosis, which has followed the pattern of Hull's work, separates two essential factors: "trance" and suggestion (Heap, 1996). The state of mind induced by "trance" is said to come about via the process of a hypnotic induction; essentially instructions and suggestions that an individual will enter a hypnotic state. Once a subject has entered hypnosis, suggestions are given which can produce the effects sought by the hypnotist. Commonly used suggestions on measures of "suggestibility" or "susceptibility" (or, for those with a different theoretical orientation, "hypnotic talent") include suggestions that one's arm is getting lighter and floating up in the air, or the suggestion that a fly is buzzing around your head. The "classic" response to an accepted suggestion that one's arm is beginning to float in the air is that the subject perceives the intended effect as happening involuntarily (Weitzenhoffer, 1980).

Suggestions, however, can also have an effect in the absence of a hypnosis. These so-called "waking suggestions" are given in precisely the same way as "hypnotic suggestions" (i.e., suggestions given within hypnosis) and can produce strong changes in perceptual experience. Experiments on suggestion, in the absence of hypnosis, were conducted by early researchers such as Hull (1933). More recently, researchers such as Nicholas Spanos and Irving Kirsch have conducted experiments investigating such non-hypnotic-suggestibility and found a strong correlation between people's responses to suggestion both in- and outside hypnosis (Kirsch & Braffman, 2001).

In addition to the kinds of suggestion typically delivered by researchers interested in hypnosis there are other forms of suggestibility, though not all are considered interrelated. These include: primary and secondary suggestibility (older terms for non-hypnotic and hypnotic suggestibility respectively), hypnotic suggestibility (i.e., the response to suggestion measured within hypnosis), and interrogative suggestibility (yielding to interrogative questions, and shifting responses when interrogative pressure is applied: see Gudjonsson suggestibility scale.

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References

Heap, M. (1996) The nature of hypnosis. The Psychologist, 9 (11), 498-501.

Hull, C. L. (1933/2002). Hypnosis and suggestibility: an experimental approach. Crown House Publishing

Kirsch, I., Braffman, W. (2001). Imaginative suggestibility and hypnotizability. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 4(2), 57-61.

Wetizenhoffer, A. M. (1980). Hypnotic susceptibility revisited. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 22, 130-146.

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