Have you ever wondered what makes someone vulnerable to hypnosis? A study published in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis suggests that being self-conscious can make individual’s less susceptible to being hypnotized.
Hypnotism is frequently thought of as a gimmick done by magicians, but it can also be a utilized as a psychological intervention. Theories about how hypnosis functions indicate that there is a decrease in self-awareness and/or attention that is necessary for that influence. There may be an aspect of hypnosis requiring less competition with other aspects of cognitive functioning.
Hypnotizability has been found to be linked to many individual traits, but there has been limited research exploring how different aspects of self-consciousness relate to hypnotizability. This study seeks to bridge that gap in literature.
Etzel Cardena and colleagues utilized 328 undergraduate students from two northern California universities. The sample contained 54% female participants with a mean age of 20.35 years old and ages ranging from 16 to 57 years old. Participants completed measures on hypnotic susceptibility, experiences during a hypnotic procedure, and self-consciousness.
The self-consciousness measure included three subscales: private self-consciousness (e.g., “always trying to figure myself,” “know the way my mind works”), public self-consciousness (e.g., “self-conscious about the way I look,” “aware of my appearance”), and social anxiety (e.g., “get embarrassed,” “large groups make me nervous”).
Results showed that the discontinuity with everyday experiences during hypnosis was correlated with both public and private self-consciousness, suggesting that being self-conscious about other people’s views was related to decreased likeliness of being susceptible to hypnosis. Women were shown to be more susceptible to hypnotism and scored higher on the feelings of automaticity subscale.
As age increased, self-consciousness decreased, which is a relationship that should be studied more in relation to susceptibility to hypnosis in future research. Additionally, social anxiety was not found to have a significant relationship with hypnotizability, though the correlations were negative, as hypothesized.
Despite the progress this research made in knowledge about hypnosis, this study had some limitations to note. One such limitation is that the correlations showed small effect sizes. Additionally, utilizing only an undergraduate sample from California limits generalizability. Future research could utilize a more diverse participant pool.
“Besides taking into consideration these limitations, future studies should consider making more focused analyses looking at the potential relations between self-consciousness, gender, trait dissociation, and hypnotic experiential automaticity, discontinuity, and absorption,” the researchers concluded. “Only the latter has received much research attention. In addition, aspects of self-consciousness could be manipulated experimentally to evaluate any impact on hypnotic responsiveness. In sum, there are multiple reasons to continue investigating how different aspects of self-consciousness may relate to hypnotic experience and hypnotizability.”
The study, “Dispositional Self-Consciousness and Hypnotizability“, was authored by Etzel Cardeña, Lena Lindström, Ann Åström, and Philip G. Zimbardo.