In reading an article about hypnosis in Scientific American Mind, I came across a reference to people being hypnotized while vigorously riding a stationary bicycle, and I was intrigued by the idea. So I began researching it, and here is some of what I found.
The concept of active hypnosis developed from an observation in social science; Ludwig and Lyle (1964) introduced the concept of “hyperalert” hypnosis to describe people who seemed to be following suggestions in a hypnotized way, while physically very active. As examples of this “natural hypnosis” they cited tribal dances, religious revivals and political rallies.
Bányai & Hilgard (1976) described “active-alert hypnosis”. They developed a standardized induction that involved open eyes, no mention of relaxation or sleep, and measurable physical activity. During the induction their subjects pumped a stationary bike under heavy load. Bányai used a standard script for the induction, with suggestions for alertness, attentiveness and freshness instead of sleep and drowsiness. The hypnotic state produced by active-alert induction was nearly identical with a traditional relaxation induction. This opened the door to using hypnosis in situations that require open eyes and alert attention.
Improved Cognitive Skills
In one study, college students were taught to use “alert self-hypnosis” to improve their skills to read, listen, take notes, and write exams. Students were randomized into alert hypnosis treatment or waiting list groups. Following training in an eyes-open induction, treated subjects were coached to create and give themselves suggestions for better comprehension while reading in hypnosis. After training, all subjects were tested on a standardized reading comprehension test, and students in the “alert self-hypnosis” group improved their test scores, and they made an average gain of almost one half a grade from the quarter before to the quarter after training (Wark & laPlante, 1991).
Athletic achievements can be increased with alert hypnosis, for example raising an archer’s precision. In one model (Robazza & Bortoli, 1994), the athlete in alert hypnosis receives suggestions for body awareness, imagery rehearsal, focus on relevant cues for the event, and smooth automatic execution. The impact of all these suggestion is enhanced by alert hypnotic induction and suggestion during practice, followed by a total review later, in traditional hypnosis. Their study showed marked improvement in the alert hypnosis archer.
While many studies have shown virtually no difference between the hypnotic state produced by a traditional relaxation induction and an active-alert induction, one distinction is significant: alert inductions are significantly associated with reports of joyful dreams (Bányai, 1980). So apparently there are positive uses for active-alert hypnosis beyond tribal dances, religious revivals and political rallies.
Bányai, É. (1980). A new way to induce a hypnotic-like alert state of consciousness: Active-alert induction. In L. Kardos and C. Pleth (Eds.), Problems of the Regulation of Activity. (pp. 261-273). Budapest: Akademiai Kiado.
Bányai, É., & Hilgard, E. (1976). A comparison of active-alert hypnotic induction with traditional relaxation induction. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 85(2), 218-224.
Ludwig, A.M., & Lyle, W.H. (1964). Tension induction and the hyperalert state. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 69(1), 70-76.
Robazza, C., & Bortoli, L. (1994). Hypnosis in sport: An isomorphic model. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 79(2), 963-973.
Wark, D.M., & laPlante, P.M. (1991). Reading in alert trance: Effects on comprehension. Hypnos, 17(2), 90-97.