Conscious vs Unconscious

[s there actually an 'unconscious mind' in some sense? And if so, does texplain certain kinds of response to hypnotic suggestion?

First, it is very likely that information is actually processed, at least under ertain conditions, outside of conscious awareness, and that it can influence behavior. A modern look at this old topic can be found inKihlstrom's 1987 Science article, "The Cognitive Unconscious," 237,1445-1452. This is not to say that any particular 'subliminal learning'claims have support from this notion, only that it is possible for perceptionof a sort to occur without pparent conscious awareness.

One study demonstrating a subliminal influence on subsequent behavior was Borgeat & Goulet, 1983, "Psychophysiological changes following auditory subliminal suggestions for activation and deactivation," appearing 1 nPerceptual & Motor Skills. 56(3):759-66, 1983 Jun.

This study was to measure eventual psychophysiological changes resulting rom auditory subliminal activation or deactivation suggestions. 18 subjects were alternately exposed to a control situation and to 25-dB activating and deactivating suggestions masked by a 40-dB white noise. Physiological measures(EMG, heart rate, skin-conductance levels and responses, and skin emperature)were recorded while subjects listened passively to the uggestions, during astressing task that followed and after that task. Multivariate analysis ofvariance showed a significant effect of the activation ubliminal suggestions during and following the stressing task. This result is discussed asindicating effects of consciously unrecognized perceptions on psychophysiological responses.

A hypnotic subject clearly also takes an active and voluntary role in omesense as well when carrying out suggestions, as pointed out by Spanos nd thesocial-psychological theorists.

Perhaps the data showing this contrast most strikingly is from the study □fhypnotic blindness.' One example is Bryant and McConkey's 1989 "HypnoticBlindness: A Behavioral and Experimental Analysis," Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 98, 71-77, and also p. 443-447, "Hypnotic

[t appears that some form of neurological events involving more or iessintelligent response to information can occur, in or out of hypnosis, withoutour direct awareness of them. One theory proposes that the brain has a simultaneous parallel capacity for cognitive learning and forstimulus-response earning, independently of each other and by differentneural mechanisms. This has been proposed by some as a partial explanationfor automatisms and some hypnotic responses. One version of this view may befound in the article by Mishkin, Malamut, and Bachevalier, "Memories andHabits: Two Neural Systems," in The Neurobiology of Learning andBehavior, edited by McGangh, Lynch, and Weinberger, by Guilford Press.

[t is important to recognize that the detailed physiological mechanismsunderlying the processing of information in general are largely speculative,and that the gaps in our understanding of hypnotic phenomena (or states of consciousness' in general) complicate the situation. It has been ontended that even some of the simpler forms of learning and information processingconsist of a number of different processes, each with its own pecialproperties.

One important distinction is between explicit and implicit learning. Explicit earning is what we commonly think of as doing as part of the onsciousreasoning process when we try to learn something deliberately. It generallyinvolves reasoning and hypothesis testing. Implicit learning is acquiring newinformation which either cannot be verballized, or which occurs apparently without conscious reasoning and hypothesis testing. Kihlstrom, oneinvestigator of hypnotic and unconscious psychological processes, has hown that a particular variant of implicit learning, involving certain non-novel information (such as word pairings), can occur under medical anesthesia. Thedegree to which this can be considered a form of learning in he more generalnon-technical sense is difficult to say, and the precise neurobiological mechanism of anesthesia is likewise somewhat elusive. But it has also been observed that implicitly learned material has certain unique haracteristics, as compared to explicitly learned material, such as that mplicit material ismore often preserved intact in cases of amnesia.

Some examples of research into learning and perception which occurs outside of sensory (visual) attention:

• Mandler, Nakamura & Van Zandt (1987). Nonspecific effects of exposure on stimuli that connot be recognized. J Exp Psych: Learning, Memory andCognition, 13, 646-648.

• Miller (1987). Priming is not necessary for selective-attention failures: Semantic effects of unattended, unprimed letters. Perception and Psychophysics, 41, 419-431.

• Carlson & Dulany (1985). Conscious attention and abstraction inconcept learning. J Exp Psych: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 11, 45-58.

bases in artificial grammar learning. JEPLMC, 17, 875-887.

• Hayes & Broadbent (1988). Two modes of learning for interactive tasks.Cognition, 28, 249-276.

On the concept of attention in general:

• Allport (1989) Visual Attention. In M.I.Posner (Ed.) Foundations ofCognitive Science. (pp. 631-682).

• Kahneman & Treisman (1984). Changing views of attention andautomaticity. In Parasuraman & Davies (Eds.) Varieties of Attention.

• Navon (1985). Attention division or attention sharing? In Posner and Marin (Eds) Attention and Performance XI.

• Neumann (1987). Beyond capacity: A functional view of attention. In Heuer& Sanders (Eds.) Perspectives on Perception and Action.

Article by Todd I. Stark

From the FAQ regarding the scientific study of hypnosis by Todd I. Stark © 1993.

Using Hypnosis To Achieve Mental Mastery

Using Hypnosis To Achieve Mental Mastery

Hypnosis is a capital instrument for relaxation and alleviating stress. It helps calm down both the brain and body, giving a useful rest. All the same it can be rather costly to hire a clinical hypnotherapist, and we might not always want one around when we would like to destress.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment