The "hypnotic state" and eye movements. Less there than meets the eye?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Responsiveness to hypnotic procedures has been related to unusual eye behaviors for centuries. Kallio and collaborators claimed recently that they had found a reliable index for "the hypnotic state" through eye-tracking methods. Whether or not hypnotic responding involves a special state of consciousness has been part of a contentious debate in the field, so the potential validity of their claim would constitute a landmark. However, their conclusion was based on 1 highly hypnotizable individual compared with 14 controls who were not measured on hypnotizability. We sought to replicate their results with a sample screened for High (n = 16) or Low (n = 13) hypnotizability. We used a factorial 2 (high vs. low hypnotizability) x 2 (hypnosis vs. resting conditions) counterbalanced order design with these eye-tracking tasks: Fixation, Saccade, Optokinetic nystagmus (OKN), Smooth pursuit, and Antisaccade (the first three tasks has been used in Kallio et al.'s experiment). Highs reported being more deeply in hypnosis than Lows but only in the hypnotic condition, as expected. There were no significant main or interaction effects for the Fixation, OKN, or Smooth pursuit tasks. For the Saccade task both Highs and Lows had smaller saccades during hypnosis, and in the Antisaccade task both groups had slower Antisaccades during hypnosis. Although a couple of results suggest that a hypnotic condition may produce reduced eye motility, the lack of significant interactions (e.g., showing only Highs expressing a particular eye behavior during hypnosis) does not support the claim that eye behaviors (at least as measured with the techniques used) are an indicator of a "hypnotic state.” Our results do not preclude the possibility that in a more spontaneous or different setting the experience of being hypnotized might relate to specific eye behaviors.


  • Etzel Cardeña
  • Barbara Nordhjem
  • Kenneth Holmqvist
External organisations
  • University of Groningen
  • Pennsylvania State University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Psychology


  • hypnosis, hypnotizability, eye-tracking
Original languageEnglish
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Publication categoryResearch

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