In the latest work of Steven Lynn, professor of psychology at Binghamton University, State University of New York, he tries to pinpoint what makes certain people especially good hypnotic subjects and determine if it's possible to raise others to their level.

One project explores the idea that the ability to respond to hypnotic suggestions "can be changed and enhanced when participants are instructed,” Lynn said. Janet Ambrogne, assistant professor in Binghamton University's Decker School of Nursing, is working on this study along with Lynn and his team of graduate students.

The research team tests subjects to determine how well each responds to hypnotic suggestions. Then researchers provide information about how hypnosis works, trying to eliminate the subject's misconceptions, for example that people under hypnosis are gullible and easily led. "We try to encourage them to use their imaginations, rather than to passively respond to the suggestions, and to actively immerse themselves in the experience of whatever is suggested," Lynn said.

Two years into the three-year project, the research indicates that instruction does indeed help people respond better to hypnotic suggestions. By speaking with subjects and letting them watch how others perform under hypnosis, "we can get at least half of initially low-hypnotizable subjects to test as high hypnotizing subjects," Lynn said.

Lynn and his graduate students are also working to develop scales that measure a person's aptitude for mindfulness and see how one's ranking on those scales correlates to other traits.

"My way of thinking," Lynn said, "is that hypnotic responsiveness is associated with attitudes, beliefs, expectancies, motivation, using your imagination and the kinds of strategies people use." If he is correct, and if therapists can help subjects fine-tune those variables, that could increase the value of hypnosis as a therapeutic tool.; Source: Binghamton University