Sunday, 8 July 2012

Amir Raz: Hypnosis as Experimental Tool to Study Metacognition, Causality and Volition


apologies: video not available
      Abstract: An early form of psychotherapy, hypnosis has been tarnished by a checkered history: stage shows, movies and cartoons that perpetuate specious myths; and individuals who unabashedly write 'hypnotist' on their business cards. Hypnosis is in the twilight zone alongside a few other mind–body exemplars. Although scientists are still unraveling how hypnosis works, little is mystical about this powerful top-down process, which is an important tool in the armamentarium of the cognitive scientist seeking to unlock topical conundrums.  Philosophical research has revealed a great deal about three categories of behavior: conscious decision-making, authorship, and sense of control. However, little conclusive evidence regarding their interdependent nature has been found, due to the difficulties in separating their influences on tasks such as decision-making.

      Demacheva, I, M Ladouceur, E Steinberg, G Pogossova, A Raz (2012) The Applied Cognitive Psychology of Attention: A Step Closer to Understanding Magic Tricks. Applied Cognitive Psychology http://www.jgh.ca/uploads/Psychiatry/Articles%20PDF/Magic1-Published.pdf
      Raz, A. (2011). Does Neuroimaging of Suggestion Elucidate Hypnotic Trance? International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 59(3), 363-377.http://www.jgh.ca/uploads/Psychiatry/Articles%20PDF/IJCEH2011.pdf
      Raz, A (2011) Hypnosis: a twilight zone of the top-down variety. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, December 2011, Vol. 15, No. 12http://psycho.unibas.ch/fileadmin/psycho/redaktion/Abteilungen/Klinische_Psychologie_und_Psychotherapie/Raz_2011_TINS.pdf
      Raz, A., & Whatley, B. (2009) Consciousness reduced: Will neuroscience confine the mind to the brain? PsycCRITIQUES - Contemporary Psychology, 54(39).http://www.jgh.ca/uploads/Psychiatry/Articles%20PDF/PSYCCRITIQUES_consciousness_reduced.pdf
      Raz, A., & Zigman, P., (2009). Using Magic as a Vehicle to Elucidate Attention. In A. Finazzi AgrËœ et al. (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Life Sciences. London: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
      Raz, A. (2009) Varieties of Attention: A Research-Magician's Perspective. In G. Bernston and J. Cacioppo (Eds.), Handbook of Neuroscience for the Behavioural Sciences (pp. 361-369). Hoboken: John Wiley and Sons, Inc. http://bit.ly/RazHypno

Comments invited

38 comments:

  1. So the way I formally understood hypnosis is that it is suggestion. And that the more suggestible you are the more hypnotizable you will be. I learned a lot about hypnosis today and that it is a concentrated state of awareness. It sounds a lot like another psychological phenomenon known as "flow". Where experts or people working on a project will get into a trance like state where they do their work with incredible concentration and automaticity. Is this similar to hypnosis or a suggestive state?

    As well during the talks I thought about the fact that when we have a conference like this we ususally take for granted the fact that the speakers know what they are talking about. Although we may have never met the person before or see them do their work we believe what they are saying due to our own notions and what other people say about that person. This may again have something to do with being suggestible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would add, still i'm really novice in that subject, that hypnosis is mostly based on subject expectations. At the moment an expectation is there, easier is the suggestion since the person is already expecting something to happen. "What the mind expect tends to realize".

      This partly explain why we tend to trust people who have a certain authority in a domain. We expect them to say the truth.

      Delete
  2. HYPNOSIS AS A MODEL FOR THE OTHER-MINDS PROBLEM

    Are hypnotic subjects really feeling what they act as if they are feeling?

    Also, even if hypnosis has something to do with concentrated attention, and even if it is always a result of self-hypnosis, it seems to be very closely related to the power of language, which is not just a means of mind-reading and mind-writing (non-paranormal "telepathy"), but a form of mind-altering (non-paranormal "telekinesis").

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that the point you are bringing forward highlights the link between feeling and agency. In the case of hypnosis it seems like, along with compliance, there is reduced agency following suggestions made during hypnosis. Then, the question "do the subjects really feel what they act?" seems to appeal to agency to me here.
      Does it feels the same when we are under hypnosis? I can not tell yet because I have never been hypnotized, but I think that if agency and concentrated attention are really key in hypnosis, we could "isolate" what the feeling of agency and the feeling of concentrated attention brings into action.

      Delete
    2. You made a good point. I also felt like hypnosis and the feeling of agency where closely linked. When someone is under hypnosis, isn't the person just acting without the feeling of agency? So, when the person is under hypnosis, the lost of agency surely affects the subjectivity, thus the phenomenal consciousness.

      And for Stevan's question, if the person acts like he's feeling something, and we want to know if he's really feeling it, I guess the only thing we can trust is psychophysiological datas. If hypnosis can alter perception and (to a certain extent) consciousness at a behavioral and brain activity level, I don't know how we could say that they are not feeling what they act as if they are feeling. The only thing they don't seem to feel is the feeling of agency.

      Delete
    3. FEELING VS FEIGNING
      @Laurie-Anne

      I agree that with hypnosis, all we have is behavioral and physiological correlates to go by, and they're probably good enough. (That's all we have to go by with feeling in general, too.)

      The hard problem is explaining how/why organisms really feel, rather than just doing whatever they need to do.

      Delete
  3. I was really amazed by Dr. Raz's description of top-down effects during or following hypnosis (e.g., the blister that appears a few hours after the quarter touches the skin, the fact some subjects seem to perceive things that clearly do not exist and are not in their visual fields). I wonder if anyone has dared to speculate on how these kind of top-down effects occur. What is the mechanism involved here? We cannot perceive something only because we want to. Are these effects the result of (e.g.) the opening of some kind of emotional pathway that can alter perception and basic bodily mechanisms? Or something different entirely?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was also very amazed with this story. It would be great to see an investigation of this effect to be able to judge the credibility of it ourselves. Its very unfortunate that the AV equipment was not working because Dr. Raz did not get a chance to show us his evidence.

      Delete
  4. Dr. Raz,
    If hypnosis can be thought of as a very concentrated form of attention, is there an evidence that it can enhance learning? I ask because attention has long been known to enhance some forms of learning. If so, can something that is learned during hypnosis persist in the subject's brain afterwards? It will be interesting to do MEG/EEG recordings during hypnosis and compare it with some of the neural correlates of attention (e.g., decreased alpha and increased gamma synchrony).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There seems to be a study on learning of a sequential motor task (Nemeth et al 2012) and they have shown that if they isolated the influences from the frontal system (which makes the task explicit) through hypnosis, they were actually boosting learning. It seems that the striatal-dependent learning was capable on its own to learn and learned better if one system was isolated through hypnosis. Hypnosis can thus lead to reduced interference between systems. Interesting study.

      Delete
  5. Hypnotism, as Doctor Raz has suggested, amounts to more than mere suggestion. This is a very intriguing class of mental processes. I am still very confused as the mechanisms that could possibly account for such a complex phenomenon. Is it possible that hypnotism is a form of very elaborate, perhaps inherently social, priming?
    I am also curious as to whether hypnotism could have clinical benefits. Does anyone know of any studies done in this direction?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hypnotherapy has a lot of clinical benefits. However, I think that it has a lot of benefits only if the hypnotherapist in question also possesses a background in psychology or psychiatry or any other fields of study that adds theoretical knowledge of clinical issues. A. Raz said in his presentation that he wouldn't give that much credit to someone who would only write "hypnotherapist" on his card.

      I made a rapid search and have found reviews about the influence of cognitive hypnotherapy on bulimia, pain management (e.g., cancer, fibromyalgia syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, sickle-cell disease), anxiety disorders, sexual problems, pediatric headaches, etc. However, as A. Raz said, many of those studies are a bit crappy because of their methodology. Without having read these reviews, I tend to think that hypnotherapy is an interesting kind of therapy for those with an appropriate level of hypnotizability.

      I'm really interested in what would be the neurological basis of a low or high level of hypnotizability in an individual.

      Delete
    2. Smoking cessation: http://psycnet.apa.org/books/11365/006
      Not so conclusive: http://bmj-ebn.highwire.org/content/14/2/48.extract


      Depression: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00207140903523194

      Dental treatment:
      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD007154.pub2/pdf/standard

      I remember that Dr. Raz emphasized on the evidence that hypnosis was known to be effective as an alternative to pharmacological pain controllers.

      Delete
  6. Amir Raz and his hypnosis kept me wondering : what does it mean that only feelings matter?
    From my understanding of hypnosis, hypnosis brings people in a state in which the individual is so concentrated on a specific thing, that anything but the attented thing will matter for this individual.
    Attention and consciousness is a topic that has been tackled in a couple of talks. If only attented things really matter for an individual, why some unattended things (eg. a threat that would not be felt because the individual is highly concentrated on something else) from an individual's point of view (eg. a hypnotized individual) would matter so much for an observer if it doesn't really matter for the subject? that's why I keep questioning the relevance of saying "only feelings matter" and keep wondering whether what really matters is the feeling (of the subject) or the feeling (of the observer) that only feeling matter.
    It's quite obvious that an individual acts according to his/her own feeling but what about individual interacting with him/her? They interact with you according to their feeling of what your feeling might be and not according to your real feeling. But does this feeling that the other might feel really matter?
    Surely it does, otherwise we won't have this empathic ability?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's exactly how pickpockets will be able to steal your money. By manipulating your attention, your feelings. This is exactly how magicians do their tricks too. Why is it so surprising that once feelings emerge, attention is not anywhere else?

      Delete
  7. HOW FEELINGS MATTER

    If you suggest to a subject that you will pinch him and he will not feel it, what matters is whether the subject does or does not feel it, not whether the subject says and acts as if he does not feel it, nor whether the hypnotist or anyone else feels that the subject does not feel it.

    This is what makes it all the harder to explain how and why organisms feel: Evolution, the Blind Watchmaker, is no more of a mind-reader than any of us (including hypnotists). So there is no way for evolutionary selection to be based on whether or not an organism feels: only on what an organisms does.

    (About empathy and mattering, I think you keep missing the point, Pauline. What matters is pain. Without exception pain matters to the feeler of the pain. Whether it matters to the causer or witness of the pain depends on whether the causer or witness is empathic or sociopathic. But the Blind Watchmaker can only design organisms on the basis of doing, not feeling, whether the doing in question involves empathy/indifference to the injured doings of others or fondness/indifference to the presence of foods high in glucose: Yes, we eat candies because they taste good; and yes we help those in need because we feel sorry for them (and not just if they are our progeny). But you have to distinguish what matters to us, feelingly, from what matters to the Blind Watchmaker, functionally.)

    ReplyDelete
  8. This subject’s talk about hypnosis was very interesting and original. I have two questions about it. Is someone under hypnosis the real agent of his own actions (in a moral context for example)? If I am right it could be impossible to distinguish a normal person from someone hypnotized just by his behavior. I was wondering if there is an another way to understand the real state of someone (like by neuroimaging).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. I think that being manipulated by someone when doing a crime can be an attenuating circumstance in criminal law. I think that was the case of Karla Homolka: she has been manipulated by her boyfriend, who was psychopath, and here sentence was reduced because of that. I see this as an example of the justice considering that agency has been reduced as a result of manipulation (i.e. suggestion, hypnosis or whatever we would call it, as long as it involves some sort of manipulation).
      I am not convinced about your claim that it could be impossible to distinguish between a normal and a hypnotized person just by its behavior. In fact, observers can be trained to recognize subtle behaviors.
      Apart from distinguishing a hypnotized person “just by its behavior”, you can for sure distinguish him based on other indices. Notably, the phenomenology of being hypnotized is quite different from normal experiencing in that your feeling of agency is lowered when hypnotized. Moreover, you can identify the hypnotizer’s manipulations and the corollary behaviors of the hypnotized person.

      Delete
    3. If there are other ways of identifying the "real state of someone"? We would see it through EEG if one person is behaving under wavelengths that aren't regular to his behaviours. Hypnosis changes the pattern of neural discharge in the brain, and this synchronicity could be investigated through EEG.

      Someone under hypnosis does not lose the contact with the reality that surrounds him. He would not commit any criminal acts if he does not have such a personality in real life: my hypothesis is that if one commits a criminal act under hypnosis (like a murder), the circonstances would have been there as well in real life for the murder to be committed by the person (an antisocial personality, revenge towards the person in question, appropriate circumstances, and so forth).

      I think that hypnosis has often been used in court to justify some particular and horrendous crimes, and it's been dismissed quite rapidly considering how hypnosis shouldn't be awaking specific "brutal drives" in an individual, if these weren't present in the past.

      Delete
    4. In fact, fro what I know (correct me if i'm wrong) but hypnosis cannot induce you an idea that doesn't echo something you want to. The wording, language used, is as important as the suggestion. In fact, the moment you are not "in phase" with a suggestion, that you doubt about the intentions of the hypnotherapist or you are confronted with images that you don't feel confortable with, you will lose the level of trance that you were brought too. Once again, I would repeat that "what the mind expects tends to realize"... Only if you want to.

      Delete
  9. I was wondering what - if any - parallels Dr. Raz might think exist between dreaming and hypnosis. Hypnotized individuals can certainly feel - if we define consciousness as feeling, then I think all would agree that they are conscious. I think we also 'feel' when dreaming. Certainly, nightmares (although a very speficic class of dreams) induce strong emotions, and I think most would agree that an emotion is a kind of feeling. What seems to be absent in both these states is a form of volition. During hypnosis, the subject's volition is either absent, or dominated by the hypnotist's suggestion. In dreaming, the absence of volition is more subtle I think. However, reports of 'lucid dreaming' - that is, when a person can take control, so to speak, of their dream - would suggest that in 'normal' dreaming, volition - or the impression of volition - is quasi-absent. What does this tell us about the role of volition? What part does volition - or the impression of volition - does play in consciousness? Does equating consciouness to feeling make for too broad a definition?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that there are several other differences between a hypnotic state and sleep. Sleep is characterized by several phases, several of which induce dreaming. There can be dreams in slow-wave sleep, although these are less rich than those we can find during rapid eye movement sleep. These extended boundaries in sleep/dreaming are different from a hypnotic state, as I consider it less rich than dreaming (broadly speaking, with less nuances in its state).

      Moreover, hypnosis is almost entirely based on external stimuli: a hypnotic state takes its richness from the suggestions coming from the hypnotist, whereas dreaming is almost entirely based on internal stimuli.

      There also seems to be a strong implication of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in hypnosis (in order to be capable to direct its attention to where the hypnotist wants it to be directed to). The dlpf cortex is not activated in dreaming, which probably is the reason why dreams are often illogic, accompanied by disorientation, etc.

      I think this is why hypnosis is so interesting, as well as dreaming: these are conscious states, states from which we are conscious in retrospect, and they nuanced the global understanding of consciousness.

      Delete
    2. That's a really interesting line of thought Nico, and one that was not explored during the conference in these terms. Searle defined 4 properties of consciousness as he understands it, one of which is intentionality. In your scenario, do you take intentionality and volition to be analogous? If so, the following conflict arises: since intentionality in these cases is absent, one who follows Searle's description of consciousness would say the individuals in the scenarios you describe are not conscious. One in Harnad's camp would say these scenarios certainly do describe feeling (followed by a reminder about weasel words), and thus these scenarios do describe conscious states. One of these two positions must be wrong, but which one depends on how you define consciousness/feeling. This ambiguity and lack of consensus has been, for me, the frustration of these many talks.

      Delete
    3. @Roberto Gulli

      Searle's intentionality is not voluntary movement but aboutness as in "that was not my intended meaning."

      Delete
  10. Given that individuals under hypnosis can "forget" the number 4, not feel pain, or (possibly) generate pain responses in the absence of noxious stimuli (the hot coin), is it possible to convince someone that they're not alive? Clearly there are ethical issues with this, but I'm curious what the physical limits are.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh what an interesting question! My guess would be that given that people will respond only to suggestions they are not averse to, they might not really want to comply to this suggestion. But what would happen if the person is severly suicidal? Definitely not something to try out.

      What I find so very interesting about all these studies and results is that it allows the hypnotized person to temporarily experience reality in a very different way. I think it tells a lot about how we represent reality and has has the potential to tell us a lot about how we construct that reality in the first place...

      Delete
  11. Has someone found the article/video showing facts that we missed int eh conference about the pain response in the absence of noxious stimuli (the hot coin)?

    ReplyDelete
  12. (In response to Thierry)
    I found this interesting article.

    http://siivola.org/monte/papers_grouped/copyrighted/Misc/Herpes_Simplex_and_Second_Degree_Burn_Induced_Under_Hypnosis.htm

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was also wondering about this, thanks for the reference!

      Delete
  13. Xavier Dery ‏@XavierDery

    Raz, is it *really* surprising that humans don't have the urge to understand the techniques they are using, as long as they work? #TuringC

    12:23 PM - 9 Jul 12 via Twicca Twitter app

    ReplyDelete
  14. Xavier Dery ‏@XavierDery

    Raz takes a detour to point out how ridiculous trying to score better on a IQ test is, trying really to fool yourself! Indeed. #TuringC

    12:36 PM - 9 Jul 12 via Twicca Twitter app

    ReplyDelete
  15. Dr. Raz mentioned that there are certain things that hypnotism cannot do, such as grow back an arm, or teach a foreign language. I wonder what the limits truly are? If burns or (as the article linked above claims) herpes can be induced, then significant physiological changes are not out of the question. How far can we go in pushing the mind to affect the body?

    ReplyDelete
  16. I came across this video. Effects of the "mind" on the body.
    You should all have a look.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nF_gAZTOv8

    ReplyDelete
  17. That is some inspirational stuff. Never knew that opinions could be this varied. Thanks for all the enthusiasm to offer such helpful information here.
    NLP certification

    ReplyDelete
  18. The post is written in very a good manner and it entails many useful information for me. WHAT IS CONSCIOUSNESS

    ReplyDelete
  19. http://relinedrainage.co.u.it is really great.I have read the blog this up to bottam.It is a informative website.Specially health care tips in this website.It reall very helpfull to us.

    ReplyDelete
  20. It's really nice to see your article about hypnosis,.Learn Hypnotism

    ReplyDelete