Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

ESP under Hypnosis: The Role of Induction Instructions and Personality Characteristics

Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

ESP under Hypnosis: The Role of Induction Instructions and Personality Characteristics

Article excerpt

The role of hypnosis as a mediator for ESP has been documented (see Stanford & Stein's 1994 meta-analysis). Even if it is well established that hypnosis facilitates ESP better than normal awakening or self-relaxation, little, if any, systematic research on the role of specific instructions to induce hypnosis has been carried out. Cardena (2006, 2007) repeatedly underlined that enhanced psi phenomena depend on a trait (high hypnotizability), a state (the hypnotic context), or an interaction between the two.

In this paper we manipulated the state, comparing directly the efficacy of two kinds of instructions. The first, which we named ESP, was characterized by the emphasis on the capacity to visualize a remote picture while freeing the mind from any thinking activity. The second, which we named OBE, was characterized by instructions to leave the body and allow the mind to go to the place where the target was presented (see details below). The two instructions were applied by using a within-subject design to control individual differences better. To maintain the personality traits under control, we selected participants with a medium to high level of transliminality or absorption. It is well documented that these traits act as mediators for ESP (Dalton, Zingrone, & Alvarado, 1999; Thalbourne, 1996, 2004) as well as for hypnotizability (Glisky, Tataryn, Tobias, Kihlstrom, & McConkey, 1991). Del Prete and Tressoldi (2005) demonstrated that these personality traits were strongly correlated with hits in a clairvoyance-like task, but only if participants were in a deep hypnotic state using OBE instruction.

We expected that, once in a state of hypnosis, participants with these personality traits would benefit more from suggestions to use OBE to complete a clairvoyance task than from suggestions to use ESP because the targets were presented in a room not very far from the place where the participants were located. However, the OBE suggestions can be considered less credible than the ESP ones, that is, the possibility to let the mind leave the body and move to the room where the targets are presented. There is some evidence that the credibility of the treatment acts as a mediator on the effects obtained under hypnosis (Milling, Shores, Coursen, Menario, & Farris, 2007). To our knowledge, there is no evidence of the role of the credibility of hypnotic suggestions on ESP performance. In this sense, our comparison between OBE and ESP instructions has to be considered as exploratory.



Twelve volunteers (7 males and 5 females) were recruited by the first author among relatives and people attending his Center, to participate in an experiment to test the potentialities of hypnosis. They were selected from among other people if their scores on the Revised Transliminality Scale (Lange, Thalbourne, Houran, & Storm, 2000) were above 25.7 out of a maximum of 37.3 of the corrected scores and/or above 23 (over 2/3 of the range, 0-34) on the Tellegen Absorption Scale.

Previous findings (Del Prete & Tressoldi, 2005), suggested that the contribution of these personality characteristics to ESP required at least a medium level of transliminality or absorption; therefore we maintained this criterion. The participants' mean chronological age was 35, standard deviation = 10.1. The volunteers were not paid for their participation.


The task was devised as a simple gambling-like task. Twenty different series of four emotionally neutral figures (representing landscapes, animals, buildings, flowers, and so on) for a total of 10 trials, were presented in sequence one at rime on a PC monitor for about 1 min and then presented simultaneously to allow the participant to guess which one could be the target. At the same time, the target, chosen by a pseudorandom algorithm, was projected on a second monitor. This monitor was in a room connected to the equipment installed in a second room separate from the one where the volunteer was located. …

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