Researchers have found evidence for the existence of a hypnotic state

Researchers have found evidence for the existence of a hypnotic state -- the key was in the glazed staring eyes.

A multidisciplinary group of researchers from Finland (University of Turku and Aalto University) and Sweden (University of Skövde) has found that strange stare may be a key that can eventually lead to a solution to this long debate about the existence of a hypnotic state.

One of the most widely known features of a hypnotized person in the popular culture is a glazed, wide-open look in the eyes. Paradoxically, this sign has not been considered to have any major importance among researchers and has never been studied in any detail, probably due to the fact that it can be seen in only some hypnotized people.

This study was done with a very highly hypnotizable participant who can be hypnotized and dehypnotized by just using a one-word cue. The change between hypnotic state and normal state can thus be varied in seconds.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
The authors have also provided a video-clip where the change in the eye-behavior of the participant is shown

The researchers used high-resolution eye-tracking methodology and presented a set of well-established oculomotor tasks that trigger automatic eye behavior. They found the glazed stare was accompanied by objectively measurable changes in automatic, reflexive eye behavior that could not be imitated by non-hypnotized participants.

In the field of hypnosis research this result means that hypnosis can no longer be regarded as mental imagery that takes place during a totally normal waking state of consciousness. On the other hand, the result may have wider consequences for psychology and cognitive neuroscience, since it provides the first evidence of the existence of a conscious state in humans that has previously not been scientifically confirmed.

Hypnosis has had a long and controversial history in psychology, psychiatry and neurology. For over 100 years researchers have debated if a special hypnotic state exists or whether it is just about using cognitive strategies and mental imagery in a normal waking state. So far, a hypnotic state has never been convincingly demonstrated, and therefore, many regard the to be just a popular myth in psychology.

More information: The results were published in the journal PLoS ONE - dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0026374

Provided by Academy of Finland

4.3 /5 (16 votes)

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gmurphy
not rated yet Oct 25, 2011
Phew!, that's a little disturbing. It's quite curious that such a vulnerable state has been preserved by evolution, not that it's likely to happen spontaneously in nature.
LVT
1.4 / 5 (10) Oct 25, 2011
> not that it's likely to happen spontaneously in nature.

While awake.
emsquared
3 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2011
Phew!, that's a little disturbing. It's quite curious that such a vulnerable state has been preserved by evolution, not that it's likely to happen spontaneously in nature.

I imagine it isn't much different than the state the neuro-centers enter when one sustains severe trauma of a physical or mental/emotional nature.
that_guy
3 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2011
I agree from emsquared - there's probably some evolutionary reason for it - perhaps a sort of 'unintended' expression of the analgesic effect from excessive trauma.

That woman's eyes are really frickin' creepy when she is in the 'hypnotic' state.

That said, they say that she can be hypnotized and dehypnotized with a single word. Without some kind of brain scan that can confirm that she does not just put herself in some kind of self induced pseudo-trance - You can color me skeptical about the value of this study. Not that I disagree with the concept; I just believe that the possible lack of attention to variables may well invalidate any results.
Ionian
5 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2011
Her eyes glaze over like when a college student has been listening to a non-interesting lecture. It's like a micro nap with eyes open.
Callippo
1 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2011
not that it's likely to happen spontaneously in nature.
It's rather disturbing, you don't know about it. For example, it's quite easy to hypnotize chicken.

http://www.youtub...Z95L2n7o
Temple
3 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2011
In the field of hypnosis research this result means that hypnosis can no longer be regarded as mental imagery that takes place during a totally normal waking state of consciousness.


Hmm, I've read the article several times, but I can't seem to see where the link between changes in eye movement is somehow shown to be associated with a state of consciousness which is different from 'a totally normal waking state of consciousness'.

I also see that the study was done with a single subject.

Fascinating to witness the very cutting edge of bad science.
PoppaJ
3 / 5 (4) Oct 25, 2011
I agree this is a questionable article. Stating that the changes in the eye cannot be replicated by a waking person is dubious at best. I can cause my pupils to dilate with minimal concentration only. First they will need to prove a Hypnotic state with verifiable and replicable evidence that can be done on people at random and not "that one person".
emsquared
5 / 5 (3) Oct 25, 2011
Hmm, I've read the article several times, but I can't seem to see where the link between changes in eye movement is somehow shown to be associated with a state of consciousness which is different from 'a totally normal waking state of consciousness'.

I also see that the study was done with a single subject.

Fascinating to witness the very cutting edge of bad science.

As I understand it, it's eye movement that is NOT occurring that they're taking note of. In her supposedly hypnotized state, her eyes do not respond to well established involuntary oculomotor tests.

And I don't think they're saying they proved anything definitively, just that this specific aspect (oculomotor response) is a good indicator and needs to be studied more.

Agree with you and that guy, though that the methodology doesn't look particularly solid.
emsquared
5 / 5 (4) Oct 25, 2011
I agree this is a questionable article. Stating that the changes in the eye cannot be replicated by a waking person is dubious at best. I can cause my pupils to dilate with minimal concentration only.

Do you presume to claim that you could deceive the Voight-Kampff test? It has identified no fewer than six Nexus-6 replicants that I know of with a 100% success rate.
Callippo
3 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2011
Fascinating to witness the very cutting edge of bad science
It just demonstrates, how the contemporary mainstream science tends to ignore, if not refuse the existence of quite apparent and natural phenomena, just because the methods for its studying aren't compatible with the methods used in another natural sciences, with the formal rigor in particular. It's whole class of phenomena, which the contemporary scientists refute to study in similar way, like the religious scholastics of medieval era - the hypnosis and/or cold fusion are just two examples.
Isaacsname
5 / 5 (1) Oct 25, 2011
Ewen Cameron probably knew this a while ago, " shock trauma ", but,... I admit I'm kind of skeptical when they say they used somebody who is " highly hypnotizable ". Who made that destinction, the subject or the researchers ?

Also, the whole " eye " thing,..Idk, I tend to go out of focus if I'm thinking real hard about something...

...steam also comes out of my ears..
hush1
1 / 5 (1) Oct 26, 2011
The giveaway. The subject's head. What does the subject's head do? The word cue induces microsleep. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Everyone dismissed. Go back to posting/commenting again.
that_guy
not rated yet Oct 26, 2011
It just demonstrates, how the contemporary mainstream science tends to ignore, if not refuse the existence of quite apparent and natural phenomena, just because the methods for its studying aren't compatible with the methods used in another natural sciences

But there are several unnaccounted variables that immediately jump out...and we can easily study them.

We have MRIs. That's how they are making progress in studying all sorts of mental phenomena and mental states - from addiction to autism to mood. The researchers refusal to fully account their study on a scientific basis, and use the full rigor of instruments available in no way discounts the scientific process here.

I know for a fact, that I can willingly unfocus my eyes into the million mile gaze just like her, to the point that they are unreactive to stimuli (similar to daydreaming). That doesn't mean I'm hypnotized.

There's no control subject, and they haven't addressed other viable explanations.
Nerdyguy
1 / 5 (1) Oct 29, 2011
While I don't necessarily doubt the plausibility of the hypothesis, the results shared here can't be considered statistically significant. Just interesting and perhaps a basis for further study.

Without which, it's difficult to even say with certainty that the subject is not just a very good actor. I mean, I've witnessed some outstanding performances. Two movies come to mind, in which the lead character has a split personality. And the performances leave one with the exact same sort of "chill" as the subject in this study. One feels as though something is just "off". But, like other commenters here, I'm curious why more tools (MRI was suggested) aren't brought into play.