Visual Memory Processing During Hypnosis: Does it Differ from Waking?

  • Helen J. Crawford
  • Steven N. Allen


Cognitive processing differences in waking and hypnotic states have been suggested by several studies. While previous studies have examined self-reports of imagery vividness (Coe et al., 1980; Sanders, 1967), this paper presents a series of investigations using more objective visual memory tasks to investigate the hypothesis that hypnosis can facilitate imagery processing such that either visual memory is better encoded or the preferred mode of scanning visual information is shifted within the highly hypnotizable individual.

Two studies, using low hypnotizables (6 and 10 Ss) and high hypnotizables (6 and 10), as assessed by the Standford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scale, Form C, studied visual memory processing in counterbalanced conditions of waking and hypnosis. Based on the methodology of Gur and Hilgard (1975), subjects were presented Meier Art Design (Meier, 1940) pictures successively, such that subjects viewed one picture for 10 seconds, saw nothing for 10 seconds, and then were given a second picture with one object changed from the first. In both studies the lows and highs did not differ in the waking state, but during hypnosis the highs were able to identify significantly more often the object difference in the picture than were the lows. Self reports of visual memory strategy used indicated that both lows and highs reported a predominant detail memory encoding strategy during the waking state. During hypnosis the lows continued doing the same strategy, but the highs reported a shift to a predominant holistic image memory encoding strategy.

A third study, now in progress, investigates the full range of hypnotizability with conditions of task motivation instructions and simulating subjects. Similar tasks are being used.

Results are discussed as being complementary to Paivio’s (1971) imagery based dual-coding theory and to the hypothesis that hypnosis may facilitate a shift towards holistic, imaginai cognitive functioning.


Visual Memory Visual Imagery Waking Condition Information Processing Strategy Holistic Strategy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helen J. Crawford
    • 1
  • Steven N. Allen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WyomingLaramieUSA

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