The Elicitation of Visual Hallucinations via Brief Instructions in a Normal Sample

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Abstract

College students tested in groups were given brief suggestions either to “see” or to “imagine” a kitten. Subjects responded twice, once with eyes open and once with eyes closed. They rated the duration, transparency, and vividness of their imagery, and also their involvement in and belief in the reality of their imaginings under both eye closure conditions. “Imagine” suggestions elicited imagery of longer duration than “see” suggestions. Although subjects reported longer, more vivid, and less transparent imagery with their eyes closed, this effect was dependent on the order of eye closure (i.e., whether the eyes closed instruction preceded or followed the eyes open instruction). The three dimensions of imagery intercorrelated, and each dimension also correlated with subjects' degree of involvement in and belief in their imaginings. A minority of subjects given both the “see” and “imagine” suggestions reported believing that their imaginings were real events during the suggestion period. Furthermore, belief in imaginings was the only variable that correlated with hypnotic susceptibility. These data indicate that hallucinations (i.e., believed-in imaginings) can be elicited from a minority of “normal” subjects with brief instructions.

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