A team of Scandinavian researchers believe they have found evidence for the existence of a hypnotic state — a finding that has eluded scientists’ since the introduction of the concept over 250 years ago.

The key, say the researchers, is in the glazed staring eyes.

A multidisciplinary group of researchers from Finland and Sweden believe that strange stare may be the key to a solution to the debate about the existence of a hypnotic state.

One of the most widely known features of a hypnotized person in the popular culture is a glazed, wide-open look in the eyes.

Ironically, this physical sign has not been studied in any detail, probably due to the fact that it can be seen in only some hypnotized people.

The new case-study followed a very highly hypnotizable participant who can be hypnotized and dehypnotized by just using a one-word cue. The change between hypnotic state and normal state can thus be varied in seconds.

Researchers used high-resolution eye-tracking methodology and presented a set of well-established oculomotor (eye-tracking) tasks that trigger automatic eye behavior.

They found the glazed stare was accompanied by measurable changes in automatic, reflexive eye behavior that could not be imitated by non-hypnotized participants.

Investigators believe this objective confirmation of physiological findings will result in a new acceptance of hypnosis – that hypnosis will no longer be regarded as mental imagery that takes place during a totally normal waking state of consciousness.

The result may also have wider consequences for psychology and cognitive neuroscience, since it provides the first evidence of the existence of a conscious state in humans that has previously not been scientifically confirmed.

According to background information for the study, hypnosis has had a long and controversial history in psychology, psychiatry and neurology. For over centuries researchers have debated if a special hypnotic state exists or whether it is just about using cognitive strategies and mental imagery in a normal waking state.

Researchers hope that this research finding will finally convince many researchers that the hypnotic state is not just a popular myth in psychology.

Source: Academy of Finland