Harvard Mental Health Letter

Exploring the mysteries of hypnosis

While hypnosis is endorsed by the American Psychiatric Association as a therapy for certain disorders, the precise manner in which it works is still not understood. The most influential theories of hypnosis emphasize dissociation, which may explain the amnesia of hypnotic subjects and the fact that they often say their actions are not willed but happening spontaneously. A different understanding is reflected in the social-cognitive theory of hypnosis, which emphasizes suggestibility rather than dissociation. This theory holds that the hypnotic trance is not an altered state of consciousness but instead a striking effect of the human susceptibility to social influence. 
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