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Hypnotic susceptibility

hypnotic susceptibility, hypnotic susceptibility test
Hypnotic susceptibility measures how easily a person can be hypnotized Several types of scales are used; however, the most common are the Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility and the Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scales

The Harvard Group Scale HGSS, as the name implies, is administered predominantly to large groups of people while the Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scale SHSS is administered to individuals No scale can be seen as completely reliable due to the nature of hypnosis It has been argued that no person can be hypnotized if they do not want to be; therefore, a person who scores very low may not want to be hypnotized, making the actual test score averages lower than they otherwise would be


  • 1 Hypnotic depth scales
  • 2 Hypnotic susceptibility scales
    • 21 Friedlander-Sarbin Scale
    • 22 Stanford Scales
      • 221 Form A
      • 222 Form B
      • 223 Form C
    • 23 Harvard Group Scale
      • 231 Hypnotic Induction Profile
    • 24 Other scales
  • 3 Susceptibility
  • 4 See also
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links

Hypnotic depth scalesedit

Hypnotic susceptibility scales, which mainly developed in experimental settings, were preceded by more primitive scales, developed within clinical practice, which were intended to infer the "depth" or "level" of "hypnotic trance" on the basis of various subjective, behavioural or physiological changes

The Scottish surgeon James Braid who introduced the term "hypnotism", attempted to distinguish, in various ways, between different levels of the hypnotic state Subsequently, the French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot also made a similar distinction between what he termed the lethargic, somnambulistic, and cataleptic levels of the hypnotic state

However, Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault and Hippolyte Bernheim introduced more complex hypnotic "depth" scales, based on a combination of behavioural, physiological and subjective responses, some of which were due to direct suggestion and some of which were not In the first few decades of the 20th century, these early clinical "depth" scales were superseded by more sophisticated "hypnotic susceptibility" scales based on experimental research The most influential were the Davis-Husband and Friedlander-Sarbin scales developed in the 1930s

Hypnotic susceptibility scalesedit

Friedlander-Sarbin Scaleedit

A major precursor of the Stanford Scales, the Friedlander-Sarbin scale was developed in 1938 by Theodore R Sarbin and consisted of similar test items to those used in subsequent experimental scales

Stanford Scalesedit

The Stanford Scale was developed by André Muller Weitzenhoffer and Ernest R Hilgard in 1959 The Scale consists of three Forms: A, B, and C Similar to the Harvard Group Scale, each Form consists of 12 items of progressive difficulty and usually takes fifty minutes to complete Each form consists of motor and cognitive tasks but vary in their respective intended purpose The administrator scores each form individually

Form Aedit

Based upon the scale developed by Joseph Friedlander and Theodore Sarbin 1938, this form was developed to measure susceptibility to hypnosis with items increasing in difficulty in order to yield a score The higher is the score, the more responsive one is to hypnosis Following a standardized hypnotic induction, the hypnotized individual is given suggestions pertaining to the list below

Item Number Test Suggestion and Responses
1 Postural Sway
2 Eye Closure
3 Hand Lowering left
4 Immobilization right arm
5 Finger Lock
6 Arm Rigidity left arm
7 Hands Moving Together
8 Verbal Inhibition name
9 Hallucination fly
10 Eye catalepsy
11 Post-hypnotic changes chairs
12 Amnesia

Form Bedit

Form B was designed to be used as a follow-up to Form A when doing experiments involving a second session of hypnosis The items are similar but are changed somewhat eg the use of the opposite hand in a particular item The changes were made to "prevent memory from the first exerting too great an influence upon the recall of specific tasks"1

Form Cedit

Created a few years after Forms A and B, Form C contains some items from Form B, but includes more difficult items for "when subjects are being selected for advanced tests in which knowledge of their capacity to experience more varied items is required" pgs v-vi Weitzenhoffer & Hilgard 1962 Following a standardized hypnotic induction, the hypnotized individual is given suggestions pertaining to the list below

Item Number Test Suggestion and Responses
0 Eye Closure not scored
1 Hand Lowering right hand
2 Moving Hands Apart
3 Mosquito Hallucination
4 Taste Hallucination
5 Arm Rigidity right arm
6 Dream
7 Age Regression school
8 Arm Immobilization
9 Anosmia to Ammonia
10 Hallucinated Voice
11 Negative Visual Hallucination Three Boxes
12 Post-Hypnotic Amnesia

In more modern experiments, a scent such as peppermint has been used in place of ammonia for Item 9

Harvard Group Scaleedit

Ronald Shor and Emily Carota Orne developed the Harvard Group Scale in 1962 It consists of 12 items of progressive difficulty as defined, psychometrically, by the percentage of subjects in a normative sample that reports experiencing each particular item and usually takes around forty-five minutes to complete The items usually consist of motor tasks and cognitive tasks with the motor tasks being easier to complete The average score is 5 out of 12 The test is self-scored leaving it open to criticism concerning the validity of the scores

Hypnotic Induction Profileedit

The Hypnotic Induction Profile HIP or the eye roll test, first proposed by Herbert Spiegel,2 is a simple test to loosely determine if a person is susceptible to hypnosis A person is asked to roll his or her eyes upward The degree to which the iris and cornea are seen is measured The less of these parts of the eye observed, the more hypnotically susceptible a person is Research has shown that the scale does not carry as strong a relationship with other hypnotic scales as originally thought, with correlations ranging from 01 to 015 Orne et al 1979

Other scalesedit

Many other tests are not widely used because they are usually seen as less reliable than the Stanford Scale and Harvard Group Scale Many professionals think that these tests produce results because they involve attentional control and a certain level of concentration is required to be hypnotized

Conversely, concentration can be something induced through the use of hypnosis instead of a "fuel" used to get hypnosis running


Individuals of extremely high hypnotizability tend to have distinctive characteristics outside of hypnosis In 1981, Sherl Wilson and T X Barber reported that most of a group of extremely high hypnotizables who they termed "fantasizers" The fantasizers exhibited a cluster of traits consisting of: 1 fantasizing much of the time, 2 reporting their imagery was as vivid as real perceptions, 3 having physical responses to their imagery, 4 having an earlier than average age for first childhood memory, 5 recalling "imaginary playmates" from childhood, and 6 having grown up with parents who encouraged imaginative play3 In 1991, Deirdre Barrett examined a larger group of extremely high hypnotizables and confirmed that about 60% fit Barber and Wilson's characterization of fantasizers while 40% were what she termed "dissociaters" who: 1 experienced daydreaming mostly as "spacing out" and not remembering what had been going on for periods of time, 2 had later than average ages for first memories, and 3 had parents who had been harshly punitive and/or who had experienced other childhood traumas Fantasizers tended to experience hypnosis as being much like other imaginative activities while dissociaters reported it was unlike anything they'd ever experienced4 Individuals with dissociative identity disorder have the highest hypnotizability of any clinical group, followed by those with posttraumatic stress disorder567

See alsoedit

  • Fantasy prone personality


  1. ^ Weitzenhoffer & Hilgard 1959 Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scales, Forms A & B Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press 
  2. ^ Stern, D B; Spiegel, H; Nee, J C 1979 "The Hypnotic Induction Profile:Normative observations, reliability, and validity" American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis 21 2–3: 109–133 doi:101080/00029157197810403967 
  3. ^ SC Wilson, TX Barber 1981 Vivid fantasy and hallucinatory abilities in the life histories of excellent hypnotic subjects Somnabules: A Preliminary Report In Eric Klinger ed Imagery: Vol 2: Concepts, Results, and Applications NY, NY: Plenum Press
  4. ^ Barrett, D L 1991 Deep Trance Subjects: A Schema of Two Distinct Subgroups Chpt in R Kunzendorf Ed Imagery: Recent Developments, NY: Plenum Press, p 101 112
  5. ^ Spiegel, D; Loewenstein, R J; Lewis-Fernández, R; Sar, V; Simeon, D; Vermetten, E; Cardeña, E; Dell, P F 2011 "Dissociative disorders in DSM-5" PDF Depression and Anxiety 28 9: 824–852 doi:101002/da20874 PMID 21910187 Archived from the original pdf on May 1, 2013 
  6. ^ Frischholz EJ, Lipman LS, Braun BG, et al Psychopathology, hypnotizability, and dissociation Am J Psychiatry 1992;149: 1521–1525
  7. ^ Spiegel D, Hunt T, Dondershine H Dissociation and hypnotizability in posttraumatic stress disorder Am J Psychiatry 1988; 145:301–305

External linksedit

  • Examples of the Harvard Group Scale and the Stanford Scale
  • Hypnotic suggestibility scales

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