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Evolutionary approaches to understanding the hypnotic experience.

Ray WJ, Tucker DM.

Department of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania, University Park 16802, USA. wjr@psu.edu

Using Tinbergen's 4 why questions of causation, development, evolution, and function, the authors examine hypnosis from a larger, evolutionary perspective. Reasoning by analogy, they seek to view hypnosis in terms of an action pattern that represents a self-contained behavioral program although not as rigid as seen in lower organisms. In humans, such a program develops within the context of a long developmental sequence emphasizing social connections, imitation of significant figures, and the use of linguistic symbols to regulate both internal and external processes and actions. In terms of a mechanism, the authors speculate on the involvement of the cingulate cortex in achieving in hypnosis the experience of autonomous actions or analgesic sensory processes. Finally, they point to the fact that hypnotizability is associated with an ability to reduce the experience of pain, modulate the immune system, and achieve greater benefits of psychosocial therapies as a functional significance of the hypnotic experience.

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