Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Michael R. Nash,

Committee Members

John C. Malone, Wesley Morgan, Michael K. Smith


This research was designed to investigate the domain of hypnosis and to explore how the “state” of hypnosis, along with the susceptibility to hypnosis relate to lexical choice in verbal productions as well as to primary/secondary process mentation. The hypothesis that hypnosis facilitates primary process mentation has held a central place in numerous psychoanalytically oriented theories of hypnosis (Gill & Brenman, 1959; Fromm, 1992; Nash, 1991).

College students were screened for level of hypnotic susceptibility employing the following two hypnotic susceptibility scales: The Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility, Form A (HGSHS: A; Shor & Orne, 1962) [Appendix D] and The Computer-Assisted Hypnosis Scale (CAH; Grant & Nash, 1995) [Appendix E]. A total of 89 subjects were identified: 32 high hypnotizable subjects and 57 low hypnotizable subjects. Via random selection about half of the 57 low hypnotizable subjects were assigned to be “Simulators” (Orne, 1979). Three groups were obtained: 32 high hypnotizable subjects, 29 low hypnotizable subjects and 28 low hypnotizable simulating subjects.

Responses to six Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) cards and responses to five free speech story-openings were collected and tape-recorded during both the waking state (baseline) and the “state” of hypnosis. The standard induction procedure of the Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scale, Form C (Weitzenhoffer & Hilgard, 1962) [Appendix F] was utilized to hypnotize the subjects. The waking state and the “state” of hypnosis were counterbalanced. All tape-recordings of verbal productions were transcribed and analyzed by way of two computer content analysis programs: The Dartmouth Adaptation of The General Inquirer with the “Harvard III Psycho-Sociological Dictionary (Oxman et al. , 1988) further referred to as “DAGI-III,” which analyzes a text for 105 lexical choice variables of verbal productions and COUNT with the Regressive Imagery Dictionary, a PL/I program for content analysis of natural language, further referred to as “COUNTRID” (Martindale, 1973) which analyzes a text for 99 categories, among other variables, for level of primary and secondary process mentation.

Summary of the results: 1) Results of 2x3 ANOVA for a priori selected variables of the “DAGI-III” contentanalysis program indicate: For the main effect of condition (baseline to hypnosis), a significant decrease in THOUGHT, a significant increase in EMOTION and a significant increase in SOCIAL was found.

2) Results of 2x3 ANOVA for a priori selected variables of the “COUNT-RID” content analysis program indicate: For the main effect of condition (baseline to hypnosis), a significant decrease in SECONDARY PROCESS and a significant increase in EMOTION was found. For the interaction (condition and group), a significant decrease in SECONDARY PROCESS was found. For DRIVE high and low hypnotizable subjects showed a decrease and simulators showed an increase.

3) Auto-correlation analysis for the COUNT-RID showed, as would be expected, strong positive correlation between PRIMARY PROCESS and its components DRIVE, SENSATION, REGRESSIVE COGNITION, DEFENSIVE SYMBOLIZATION and ICARIAN IMAGERY. PRIMARY PROCESS showed a strong negative correlation with SECONDARY PROCESS. Finally SECONDARY PROCESS was strongly negatively correlated with EMOTION.

4) Auto-correlation analysis for the DAGI-III showed as would be expected that PSYCHOLOGICAL PROCESSES show high positive correlation with its components EMOTION, EVALUATE and THOUGHT.

5) Inter-correlation analysis between the DAGI-III and the COUNT-RID variables showed very strong positive correlation between the DAGI-III-EMOTION and the COUNT-RID-EMOTION, the DAGI-III-THOUGHT showed a strong negative correlation with the with the COUNT-RID-EMOTION; the DAGI-III-THOUGHT showed a strong positive correlation with the COUNT-RID-SECONDARY PROCESS.

To summarize, findings suggest that the changes in SECONDARY PROCESS and THOUGHT, as well as the DAGI-III-variable EMOTION and the COUNT-RID-variable EMOTION, may be a result other than hypnotic ability or the hypnotic experience. The possibility has been raised, that subjects who had been instructed to simulate hypnosis were successful in discerning the experimental, implicit demands to respond with decreased SECONDARY PROCESS and THOUGHT as measured by the DAGI-III and COUNT-RID respectively and to present the appearance of a genuinely hypnotized subject. The same was true for the increase in EMOTION as measured by the DAGI-III as well as by the COUNT-RID. The interaction between the condition (baseline vs. hypnosis) and the group (level of hypnotic susceptibility) would have provided the strongest support for the assertion that hypnosis changes a dimension (e.g. enhances primary process responding or decreases secondary process mentation) in highly hypnotizable subjects.

The likelihood that the hypnotic main-effect can be attributed at least to some extent to demand characteristics has been supported by the current results. The hypnotic “state”, even though it can be measured through behavioral measures such as the HGSHS and the CAH, cannot be measured by content measures of verbal productions.

Findings are discussed in regard to previous literature suggesting a link between primary process and hypnosis and suggestions for future research are made. In addition, theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

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