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.
and the fakirs, who present phenomena which Braid and 
others since have regarded as belonging to the same category, 
simply hypnotise themselves, and do the Bast Indian ecsta- 
tics, and even hibernating animals, fixate their navel in 
passing into trance only because it is at a convenient dis¬ 
tance for easy accommodation, and because they have not 
one of Heidenhain’s buttons at hand ? In cataleptic states, 
as has been lately shown -by Bieger,1 contractile energy is 
more evenly distributed between flexor and extensor muscles 
than in ordinary motion, antagonistic muscles being stimu¬ 
lated at the same time. Again, how shall we explain' the 
imitative diseases which Hecker has described as psychic 
pests, and which present so many elements in common with 
hypnotism ? It has been said that not only another’s yawn, 
but even opening a pair of tongs will cause yawning, while 
if we bethink ourselves this stimulus is ineffective. When 
the hypnotic subject pronounces long foreign sentences .cor¬ 
rectly after his controller, &c., is the attention turned on, or¬ 
is the action purely automatic and unconscious ; and does 
hypnotic colour-blindness fall within the positive or negative 
field of attention? When, e.g., a hand is made insensitive 
to pain, is it due to abnormally intense inhibition of sensa¬ 
tion or motion by consciousness, or is it better conceived as 
an entire detachment and vagrancy of attention from con¬ 
sciousness, of which it is commonly conceived only as a 
concentration. Does life cultivate the mind only in spots or 
nodes, and are these so imperfectly bound together by associa¬ 
tive and apperceptive processes that special stress upon one 
of them causes it to isolate itself still more till the power of 
self-direction is lost, and devolution and disintegration slowly 
supervene ? Ablation of the cerebral hemispheres, as is well 
known, makes some animals hypersensitive reflex machines, 
as are some hypnotics, but surely this must destroy any 
rudimentary power of attention the animal may possess. 
Consciousness seems to be of many degrees, and total un¬ 
consciousness in men is probably rare even in syncope, 
coma, fee., and can of course never be proven—a matter of 
much importance for forensic medicine ; and when our hyp¬ 
notic subjects forget their names and cannot be made to 
recognise the presence of wife or husband, shall we assume 
without further question a concentration of consciousness in 
some other direction ? Inhibition is often active as well as 
1 See “lieber Hypnotismus” in Sitzungsberichte der physilc-medic. Gesell¬ 
schaft zu Würzburg, 1882, s. 31 ; also, “ Ueber normale u. kataleptisehe 
Bewegung” in Archiv für Psychiatrie, xiii., 2, 427.


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