Is hypnotic responding the strategic relinquishment of metacognition?

Zoltán Dienes

in Foundations of Metacognition

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199646739
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745867 | DOI:
Is hypnotic responding the strategic relinquishment of metacognition?

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According to the ‘cold control theory’ of Dienes and Perner (2007) hypnotic responding is intimately linked to metacognition. Specifically, we proposed that what makes a hypnotic response hypnotic is the intentional performance of a (physical or mental) action while having inaccurate higher-order thoughts to the effect that one was not intending the action. That is, the essence of hypnosis is a strategic lack of metacognition. This chapter explores this idea in three ways. First, the chapter argues that individual differences in first-order abilities, e.g. ability to attend to the world or inhibit information, are unrelated to hypnotizability; however, the tendency to be aware of one’s mental states while performing a simple task is related to hypnotizability. Second, the chapter argues that impairing the brain region involved in metacognition (specifically the brain region involved in maintaining accurate higher-order thoughts) enhances hypnotizability. Third, the chapter argues that hypnotized subjects have no abilities they don’t have anyway; the essence of hypnosis is not the existence of any first-order abilities but the fact one‘s actions feel involuntary. Overcoming pain seems a counter-example, but debatably, the only quality that hypnosis adds to one’s ability to overcome pain is the feeling that the pain goes away by itself.

Keywords: metacognition; hypnosis; self-ascription; cold control theory; higher-order thought; neural substrates; hallucination; mental action

Chapter.  8071 words. 

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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