Hypnosis, memory and amnesia

  • Kihlstrom J
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Hypnotized subjects respond to suggestions from the hypnotist for imaginative experiences involving alterations in perception and memory. Individual differences in hypnotizability are only weakly related to other forms of suggestibility. Neuropsychological speculations about hypnosis focus on the right hemisphere and/or the frontal lobes. Posthypnotic amnesia refers to subjects' difficulty in remembering, after hypnosis, the events and experiences that transpired while they were hypnotized. Posthypnotic amnesia is not an instance of state-dependent memory, but it does seem to involve a disruption of retrieval processes similar to the functional amnesias observed in clinical dissociative disorders. Implicit memory, however, is largely spared, and may underlie subjects' ability to recognize events that they cannot recall. Hypnotic hypermnesia refers to improved memory for past events. However, such improvements are illusory: hypermnesia suggestions increase false recollection, as well as subjects' confidence in both true and false memories. Hypnotic age regression can be subjectively compelling, but does not involve the ablation of adult memory, or the reinstatement of childlike modes of mental functioning, or the revivification of memory. The clinical and forensic use of hypermnesia and age regression to enhance memory in patients, victims and witnesses (e.g. recovered memory therapy for child sexual abuse) should be discouraged.

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  • John F. Kihlstrom

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