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For many years, researchers have been investigating hypnotic susceptibility. The Stanford Scales of Hypnotic Susceptibility (SHSS) (Weitzenhoffer & Hilgard, 1959) and the Harvard Group Scale (Shore & Orne, 1962) are still relevant today, although variations and revisions have been made. For example, Morgan and Hilgard (1978) wrote a shorter version of the Stanford Scale, known as the Stanford Clinical Scale; they also wrote a scale suitable for children (see Morgan and Hilgard, 1979).

One can subdivide the Stanford Scales into Type A, B and C. Type A was developed to measure hypnotic susceptibility; it was intended that the items on the list (below) increased in difficulty, and a mark was awarded for each response given. The higher is the score, the more the individual was susceptible to hypnosis. The researcher would use a standard induction and then test the individual using, mainly, direct suggestions. The following is a list of the test suggestions and responses for Type A.

1 Postural Sway

2 Eye Closure

3 Hand Lowering (left)

4 Immoblization (right arm)

5 Finger Lock

6 Arm Rigidity (left arm)

7 Hands Moving Together

8 Verbal Inhibition (name)

9 Hallucination (fly)

10 Eye Catalepsy

11 Post-Hypnotic (changes chairs)

12 Amnesia

Type B was very similar to Type A; here, revisions were made in order to reduce the ‘practice effect’ of remembering or recalling previous, specific tasks. Type C starts with eye closure which is not scored; it also includes items which are more difficult to realize.

0 Eye Closure (not scored)

1 Hand Lowering (right hand)

2 Moving Hands Apart

3 Mosquito Hallucination

4 Taste Hallucination

5 Arm Rigidity (right arm)

6 Dream

7 Age Regression (school)

8 Arm Immobilization

9 Anosmia to Ammonia

10 Hallucinated Voice

11Negative Visual Hallucination

12 Post Hypnotic Amnesia

There is also the Hypnotic Arm Levitation and Induction Test (SHALIT), the Creative Imagination Scale (CIS) (Barber & Wilson, 1978) and the Hypnotic Induction Profile (HIP) (Spiegel & Spiegel, 2004). The latter begins with the ubiquitous eye roll induction, and is followed by arm levitation and a post-hypnotic suggestions.


Lemon test

The suggestibility tests attempt to consider individuals’ responsiveness to suggestion, relating to all the sensory modalities—visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, gustatory and kinaesthetic.

The lemon test is technically an olfactory test, although all individuals will experience the test in different ways. The researcher will give suggestions that you are holding, smelling and cutting through a lemon. He will try to make the suggestions as vivid as possible: if, towards the end of the demonstration, you can smell or taste a lemon in your mouth, the test has been successful. Some individuals are able to smell the lemon vividly and others can taste the acidity of the lemon in their mouths. However, it has been made clear that many are simply unable to do this. This technique is one of many hypnotic susceptibility tests.


Will I use this technique or other hypnotic susceptibility tests in the consulting room?

No. I feel that, although individuals have varying degrees of hypnotic susceptibility, useful psychotherapeutic work can be done on all individuals. In the therapeutic situation, I am not interested particularly in hypnotic susceptibility; rather, I am keen to develop rapport, and understand the individual needs of my clients. This is the key to therapeutic change.

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