Describe And Evaluate The Claim That Hypnosis Is An Altered State Of Awareness.

1603 words - 6 pages

Hypnosis is a hotly debated state of awareness in that as the question indicates state theorists hold that it involves an altered state of awareness while other non-state theorists claim it is simply an act of social compliance where the hypnotised simply act out a role. Nevertheless as we shall see research has led to an understanding of various aspects of the phenomenon of hypnosis but it has failed to resolve this debate.Research using the Cold Pressor Test (CPT) involving participants submerging their forearm into iced water and trying to keep it there for as long as they possible can has been used to try to resolve whether hypnosis is or is not an altered state of awareness. Initially, participants get the sensation of coldness; this is very quickly followed by a tingling sensation, which is quickly followed by pain that gets increasing stronger the longer the forearm stays in the water until it is so unbearable they have to withdraw it from the water. Hilgard tested all participants on the CPT to gain a baseline measure. He then hypnotised half of the participants and suggested that they would not be consciously aware of any pain when they submerged their forearm into the cold water. The other half were told to simulate - act out the role of how a hypnotised person would respond if they had been told that they would not be consciously aware of any pain when they submerged their forearm into the cold water. Results showed that most people in a conscious waking state who are simply role playing as opposed to being in a supposed altered state (hypnotised) can only keep their forearm submerged for around 25 seconds before they are compelled to withdraw. The hypnotised participants however could hold their forearm in iced water for significantly longer than simulators, without being conscious of feeling any pain. Nevertheless during the study Hilgard asked hypnotised participants to indicate if there was any part of them that was aware of any pain and the amount of pain being registered by using their free hand to press one of a number of buttons rated 0 to 10. With 10 representing very strong pain and 0 representing no pain. Hilgard found that the participant's free hand, assumedly controlled by the hidden observer, did indicate that they were in pain. Interestingly, when asked to do this task many participants showed anxiety and surprise when the free forearm moves to the button and reports that they are experiencing pain. Hilgard claims that it is the pre-conscious, hidden observer that is monitoring, processing and reporting back about the pain experience, whereas the verbal report that they are not experiencing any pain is the other, conscious, channel which has allowed the hypnotist to take control of. Thus, Hilgard claims, the dissociation of the conscious channel and the pre-conscious channel (hidden observer) and their consciousness has become divided creating an altered state of consciousness. Consequently holding that this is an...

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