In the popular imagination, a person who submits to hypnosis falls into a trance. The subject slavishly follows the hypnotist's commands, perhaps to squawk like a chicken, re-enact events from childhood or develop a lasting aversion to cigarettes. When the subject "awakens," he or she forgets everything that happened during the session.
Actually, hypnosis is not like that at all, said Lynn, who has devoted much of his career to establishing a clear, scientific understanding of hypnotic suggestion. A person who responds well to hypnosis takes an active rather than a passive role, working in partnership with the hypnotist. "Hypnosis involves the participant thinking and imagining along with whatever is suggested, in an expectant manner," he said.
In some of his latest work, Lynn tries to pinpoint what makes certain people especially good hypnotic subjects and determine if it's possible to raise others to their level. One project, supported by a $376,000 grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, explores the idea that the ability to respond to hypnotic suggestions "can be changed and enhanced when participants are instructed," Lynn said. Janet Ambrogne, assistant professor in Binghamton University's Decker School of Nursing, is working on this study along with Lynn and his team of graduate students.
The research team tests subjects to determine how well each responds to hypnotic suggestions. Then researchers provide information about how hypnosis works, trying to eliminate the subject's misconceptions-for example, that people under hypnosis are gullible and easily led. "We try to encourage them to use their imaginations, rather than to passively respond to the suggestions, and to actively immerse themselves in t
Contact: Gail C. Glover