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An experimental study of an hypothetical mechanism of suggestion and hypnosis McBain, William Norseworthy

Abstract

The present study is designed to gather evidence concerning two predictions made by Magda B. Arnold from her hypothesis as to the mechanism of hypnosis and suggestion. She believes this mechanism to be based upon ideo-motor action. As the individual imagines (or, more precisely, images) the actions, situations, and, emotions suggested, this process tends to bring them about. A suggestion is not acted upon until the subject begins to think about it and to imagine the situation described in the suggestion. The results of three distinct kinds of operation have been referred to as resulting from suggestion. The Arnold hypothesis applies only to the ideo-motor or 'prestige’ type, which is most typically represented by the Hull Sway Test. It is held that sway occurs in the Hull test only as the subject imagines himself falling. Because imagery is essential to effective suggestion in both the waking and the hypnotic states, the prediction is made that a direct appeal to the subject to imagine himself falling will result in scores more closely related to his ability to become hypnotized than will the standard "you are falling" instructions. The latter are believed to be effective only to the degree that imagery accidentally results from them. A second prediction is that only those who can imagine most vividly and well will be capable of attaining the deepest states of hypnosis. For the purposes of this experiment scores obtained on the Friedlander and Sarbin Scale of Hypnotic Depth are taken as a measure of the 'hypnotizability' of the subjects, in the same manner as Hull Sway Test scores are used to indicate their relative 'suggestibility'. “Goodness of imagery" is inferred from the scores of tests designed to be carried out in terms of the kinaesthetic and visual modes of imagery. Two groups of thirty students equated on sex, age, and sway in an initial sway test using Hull's standard "falling" instructions were subject to a second sway test. The second sway scores of the control group, which repeated the original test, correlated with the hypnosis scale scores to a degree significantly higher than did the first scores. The second sway scores of the experimental group, obtained from a test in which the instructions were to imagine falling as vividly as possible, showed a significantly smaller correlation than Hid the first ones. This is contrary to Arnold's first prediction and is evidence towards rejecting the derived hypothesis. Using the scores of all sixty students a significant though moderate correlation was found between imagery test scores and the results of the hypnosis scale. This is in accord with the second prediction, and is evidence towards accepting the derived hypothesis. The failure of a further analysis to show a significant relation to exist between scores of imagery and suggestibility suggests the interpretation that imagery scores represent a factor which is related to hypnotizability but independent of suggestibility. A more, adequate experimental control of motivation and the establishing of the reliability of the imagery tests used should precede the drawing of more definitive conclusions.

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