The Role of Frontal Executive Functions in Hypnosis and Hypnotic Suggestibility

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There is both theoretical and empirical evidence supporting a role for frontal executive functions (FEFs) in hypnosis and hypnotic suggestibility. However, the precise nature of this involvement is debated. While there is clear evidence that FEFs are impaired under hypnosis, the cause of this decreased function is unclear. Theories make differing predictions as to the role of FEFs in hypnotic suggestibility, with some arguing that decreased baseline (normal function outside of the hypnotic context) FEFs lead to greater hypnotic suggestibility and others arguing that increased baseline FEFs lead to greater hypnotic suggestibility. Other theories posit that suggestibility is more a consequence of attitude rather than aptitude. The present work provides a critical review of the involvement of FEFs in hypnosis and hypnotic suggestibility. The review considers behavioral evidence from studies employing putative frontal lobe tasks including tests of fluid intelligence and both task- and nontask-based neuroimaging evidence. It is determined that the evidence to date is inconclusive and that more work is needed to establish a necessary and sufficient role for FEFs in hypnosis or hypnotic suggestibility. Recommendations are made for future research.

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