Measuring agency change across the domain of hypnosis

Vince Polito, Amanda J. Barnier, Erik Z. Woody, Michael H. Connors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Building on Hilgard’s (1965) classic work, the domain of hypnosis has been conceptualized by Barnier, Dienes, and Mitchell (2008) as comprising 3 levels that represent distinct aspects of hypnotic phenomena: a) responses to different types of hypnotic suggestions, b) varying patterns of response over the phases of a suggestion, and c) the impact of state and trait influences. The current experiment investigates sense of agency across each of these three levels. Forty-six high hypnotizable participants completed an ideomotor (arm levitation), a challenge (arm rigidity), and a cognitive (anosmia) item, with or without a hypnotic induction. In a postexperimental inquiry, participants rated their feelings of control at three time points for each item: during the suggestion, test, and cancellation phases. They also completed the Sense of Agency Rating Scale (Polito, Barnier, & Woody, 2013) for each item. Pass rates and control ratings fluctuated across the different types of items and the three phases of each item; control ratings and agency scores also differed between participants who passed and failed each item. In addition, whereas a hypnotic induction influenced the likelihood of passing items, it had no direct effect on agentive experiences. These results suggest that altered sense of agency is not a unidimensional or static quality “switched on” by hypnotic induction, but a dynamic multidimensional construct that varies across items, over time, and according to whether individuals pass or fail suggestions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-19
Number of pages17
JournalPsychology of consciousness : theory, research, and practice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • control
  • effortlessness
  • hypnosis
  • involuntariness
  • sense of agency

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