During the 1923-24 formal Seminar on Hypnosis at the University of Wisconsin under the supervision of Clark L. Hull, the author, then an undergraduate student, reported for the discussion by the postgraduate students of the psychology department upon his own many and varied experimental investigative findings during the previous six months of intensive work and on his current studies.
There was much debate, argument and discussion about the nature of hypnosis, the psychological state it constituted, the respective roles of the operator and the subject, the values and significances of the processes employed in induction, the nature of the subjects’ responses in developing trances, the possibility of transcendence of normal capabilities, the nature of regression, the evocation of previously learned patterns of response whether remote or recent, the processes involved in individual hypnotic phenomenon and in the maintenance of the trance state, and above all the identification of the primary figure in the development of the trance state, be it the operator or the subject.
The weekly seminars were scheduled for two hours each, but usually lasted much longer, and frequently extra meetings were conducted informally in evenings and on weekends and holidays, with most of the group in attendance.
No consensus concerning the problems could be reached, as opinions and individual interpretations varied widely, and this finally led the author to undertake a special investigative project in October 1923. This special study has remained unpublished, although it was recorded in full at the time, as were many other studies. One of the reasons for the decision not to publish at that time was the author’s dubiousness concerning Hull’s strong conviction that the operator, through what he said and did to the subject, was much more important than any inner behavioral processes of the subject.
This was a view Hull carried over into his work at Yale, one instance of which was his endeavor to establish a “standardized technique” for induction. By this term he meant the use of the same words, the same length of time, the same tone of voice, etc., which finally eventuated in an attempt to elicit comparable trance states by playing “induction phonograph records” without regard for individual differences among subjects, and for their varying degrees of interest, different motivations, and variations in the capacity to learn.
Hull seemed thus to disregard subjects as persons, putting them on a par with inanimate laboratory apparatus, despite his awareness of such differences among subjects that could be demonstrated by tachistoscopic experiments. Even so, Hull did demonstrate that rigid laboratory procedures could be applied in the study of some hypnotic phenomena.
Recently published papers concerning the realities of hypnosis have led to a rereading and analysis of the author’s notebooks in which numerous unpublished studies were fully recorded. (Credit for this practice should be given to Dr. Hull, and the author often wonders what happened to the bookshelves of notebooks which Dr. Hull himself maintained, full of his own unpublished studies.)
The rereading of this material produced the data upon which this paper is based, permitting this report on experimental investigations into some of the apparent misunderstandings of hypnosis which are still variously accepted without careful critical thinking.
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