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Absorption (psychology)

definition psychology, absorption psychology test
Absorption is a disposition or personality trait in which a person becomes absorbed in their mental imagery, particularly fantasy1 This trait thus correlates highly with a fantasy-prone personality The original research on absorption was by American psychologist Auke Tellegen2 The construct of absorption was developed in order to relate individual differences in hypnotisability to broader aspects of personality Absorption has a variable correlation with hypnotisability r = 013–089 perhaps because in addition to broad personality dispositions, situational factors play an important role in performance on tests of hypnotic susceptibility1 Absorption is one of the traits assessed in the Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire


  • 1 Measurement
  • 2 Relationship to other personality traits
  • 3 Emotional experience
  • 4 Altered states of consciousness
    • 41 Dream recall
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References


Absorption is most commonly measured by the Tellegen Absorption Scale TAS Several versions of this scale are available, the most recent being by Graham Jamieson, who provides a copy of his modified scale3 The TAS comprises nine content clusters or subscales:4

  • responsiveness to engaging stimuli
  • responsiveness to inductive stimuli
  • imagistic thought
  • ability to summon vivid and suggestive images
  • cross-modal experiences — e g: synesthesia
  • absorption in thoughts and imaginings
  • vivid memories of the past
  • episodes of expanded awareness
  • altered states of consciousness

Studies have found that responsiveness to the engaging or inductive stimuli subscales of the TAS were more strongly related to hypnotisability than were imagistic thought, episodes of expanded awareness, or absorption in thoughts and imaginings4

A revised version of the TAS has been included in Tellegen's Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire MPQ5 in which it is considered both a primary and a broad trait6 In the MPQ, absorption has two subscales called "sentient" and "prone to imaginative and altered states" respectively

Tellegen has assigned copyright of TAS to the University of Minnesota Press UMP It was generally believed from the 1990s that the TAS was now in the public domain, and various improved versions were circulated However, recently, the UMP has reasserted its copyright, and regards these later versions to be unauthorised, and also disputes whether these versions are in fact improvements

Relationship to other personality traitsedit

Absorption is strongly correlated with openness to experience5 Studies using factor analysis have suggested that the fantasy, aesthetics, and feelings facets of the NEO PI-R Openness to Experience scale are closely related to absorption and predict hypnotisability, whereas the remaining three facet scales of ideas, actions, and values are largely unrelated to these constructs4 Absorption is unrelated to extraversion or neuroticism4 One study found a positive correlation between absorption and need for cognition7 Absorption has a strong relationship to self-transcendence in the Temperament and Character Inventory8

Emotional experienceedit

Absorption can facilitate the experience of both positive and negative emotions Positive experiences facilitated by absorption include the enjoyment of music, art, and natural beauty eg sunsets and pleasant forms of daydreaming Absorption has also been linked to forms of maladjustment, such as nightmare frequency and anxiety sensitivity fear of one's own anxiety symptoms, and dissociative symptoms Absorption may act to amplify minor somatic symptoms, leading to an increased risk of conditions associated with hypersensitivity to internal bodily sensations, such as somatoform disorders and panic disorder People may have a particular risk of the aforementioned problems when they are prone to both high absorption and to personality traits associated with negative emotionality9

Altered states of consciousnessedit

A core feature of absorption is an experience of focused attention wherein: "objects of absorbed attention acquire an importance and intimacy that are normally reserved for the self and may, therefore, acquire a temporary self-like quality These object identifications have mystical overtones"2 This capacity for focused attention facilitates the experience of altered states of consciousness In addition to individual differences in hypnotizability, absorption is associated with differential responses to other procedures for inducing altered states of consciousness, including meditation, marijuana use, and biofeedback A review of studies on differential response to the drug psilocybin found that absorption had the largest effect of all the psychological variables assessed on the intensity of individual experiences of altered states of consciousness Absorption was strongly associated with overall consciousness alteration and with mystical-type experiences and visual effects induced by psilocybin10 Researchers have suggested that individual differences in both absorption and responsiveness to hallucinogenic drugs could be related to the binding potential of serotonin receptors specifically 5-HT2A which are the main site of action of classic hallucinogens, such as LSD and psilocybin1011

Dream recalledit

Research has found that frequency of dream recall is associated with absorption and related personality traits, such as openness to experience and proneness to dissociation A proposed explanation is the continuity model of human consciousness This model proposes that people who are prone to vivid and unusual experiences during the day, such as fantasy and daydreaming, will tend to have vivid and memorable dream content, and hence will be more likely to remember their dreams12

See alsoedit

  • Fantasy psychology
  • Fantasy prone personality
  • Paracosm
  • Suggestibility
  • Depersonalization and derealization
  • Boundaries of the mind


  1. ^ a b Roche, Suzanne M; McConkey, Kevin M 1990 "Absorption: Nature, assessment, and correlates" Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 59 1: 91–101 doi:101037/0022-351459191 
  2. ^ a b Tellegen, A & Atkinson, G 1974 Openness to absorbing and self-altering experiences "absorption", a trait related to hypnotic susceptibility Journal of Abnormal Psychology, vol 83, 268–277
  3. ^ Jamieson, G A 2005 The Modified Tellegen Absorption Scale: A clearer window on the structure and meaning of absorption Australian Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, vol 33 no 2, 119–139
  4. ^ a b c d Glisky, Martha L; Tataryn, DJ; Tobias, BA; Kihlstrom, JF 1991 "Absorption, Openness to Experience, and Hypnotizability" Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 60 2: 263–272 doi:101037/0022-3514602263 PMID 2016669 
  5. ^ a b Phares, EJ; Chaplin, WF 1997 "Chapter 15 Personality and Intellect" Introduction to personality Fourth ed New York: Longman p 522 ISBN 0-673-99456-2 
  6. ^ Tellegen, A "MPQ Standard" University of Minnesota Press Retrieved April 2, 2012 
  7. ^ Osberg, Timothy M 1987 "The Convergent and Discriminant Validity of the Need for Cognition Scale" Journal of Personality Assessment 3 3: 441–450 doi:101207/s15327752jpa5103_11 
  8. ^ Laidlaw, Tannis M; Dwivedi, Prabudha; Naito, Akira; Gruzelier, John H 2005 "Low self-directedness TCI, mood, schizotypy and hypnotic susceptibility" Personality and Individual Differences 39 2: 469 doi:101016/jpaid200501025 
  9. ^ McClure, Erin B; Lilienfeld, Scott O 2002 "The dark side of Absorption: Empirical associations between an experiential response style and hypochondriacal concerns" Journal of Research in Personality 36 6: 573 doi:101016/S0092-65660200507-X 
  10. ^ a b Studerus, Erich; Gamma, Alex; Kometer, Michael; Vollenweider, Franz X 2012 Mazza, Marianna, ed "Prediction of Psilocybin Response in Healthy Volunteers" PLoS ONE 7 2: e30800 doi:101371/journalpone0030800 PMC 3281871 PMID 22363492 
  11. ^ Ott, Ulrich; Reuter, Martin; Hennig, Juergen; Vaitl, Dieter 2005 "Evidence for a common biological basis of the absorption trait, hallucinogen effects, and positive symptoms: Epistasis between 5-HT2a and COMT polymorphisms" American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B 137B: 29 doi:101002/ajmgb30197 
  12. ^ Watson, David 2003 "To dream, perchance to remember: Individual differences in dream recall" Personality and Individual Differences 34 7: 1271 doi:101016/S0191-88690200114-9 

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