Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

Reaction-Time and Attention in the Hypnotic State [Reprinted from Mind. a Quarterly review of Psychology and Philosophy. No. XXX, Offrpint]
Stanley, G.
distinguished very clearly between the positive and negative 
field of hypnotic attention, compares common consciousness 
to a large chandelier with all its jets lighted, but burning 
dimly, while inducing the hypnotic state is like turning off 
all the jets but one, which burns all the more brightly. If 
these general views be correct, no one can deny its great 
importance for all departments of psycho-physics and educa¬ 
tion ; for if psychic processes, or any considerable number of 
them, be reactions “ delayed only for compounding,” it sug¬ 
gests no less a problem than that of a virtual prolongation 
of human life, so far as it is made up of these reactions. 
Upon the Attention-hypothesis a great number of neural 
disorders are seen to be only exaggerations of states familiar 
to every normal mind, and we are enabled to throw over¬ 
board at once a formidable array of names and hypotheses 
which have long obscured and discredited facts of this order, 
while the field of experimental psychology is opened up still 
wider to those who have learned to respect and apply its 
methods, with no necessity for neurological science to “begin 
over again,” as Claude Bernard is reported to have sadly 
feared during his last days on hearing of the first of the 
recent German studies of hypnotism. 
The observations made on A. B. certainly do not favour 
the conjecture of Bain that “ action from within is sus¬ 
pended” in this state, nor the theory of Dr. Hammond of 
New York, that the function of the cortex is “ eliminated ”. 
It is true we cannot make even such approximate estimates 
as Exner assumes of the time of conducting impressions and 
impulses in the spinal cord ;1 but, making the most liberal 
allowance for spinal as well as for peripheral time, we 
find on record some 18 hundredths of a second in the normal 
and 10 in the abnormal state remaining as central or reduced 
brain-time, concerning the partitions of which, between the 
basal ganglion and the cortex, we have extremely few data 
for inference. The fact that, with certain subjects, stimuli, 
if sudden or monotonous, like abnormally long fixation, 
instead of causing irradiations of excitation in the nervous 
centres, according to Pfhiger’s law, or otherwise, are not 
diffused but accumulated and intensified, causing, e.g., as in 
Charcot’s subjects, muscular contractions to become per¬ 
manent, and producing sometimes circumscribed tonic 
rigidity, naturally suggests that the normal power of resist¬ 
ance in certain vaso-motor centres controlling the blood- 
1 As is shown in Du Bois Reymond’s Archiv, 1879, “ lieber die Abhäng¬ 
igkeit der Reactionszeiten vom Ort des Reizes,” by J. v. Kries and G. 
Stanley Hall.


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