Hypnosis and Creativity

Creativity, like intelligence, is regarded positively on our culture but probably is much rarer. Whether the comparative rarity of creativity is due to the fact that it is not reinforced in our mass-production educational system, where it can be a source of problems for teachers, is a question that remains to be answered.

There is little, if any, well-controlled research concerning the effects of hypnosis on creativity because of the immature state of the art with respect to studies on creative behavior.

In theory, hypnosis would not be expected to improve creative behavior unless there were some psychological factors at work that prevented the full expression of a subject's creative abilities that could be removed by hypnotic suggestion.

An example of this type of factor can be seen in the theoretical foundation for a method of group problem solving called brainstorming. A common difficulty in problem solving is that many problems require the skills and knowledge of more than one person for solution.

To extrapolate from brainstorming, if creative ability is being inhibited by fear of ridicule or criticism, then hypnosis may be able to increase creativity under these circumstances. Sanders (1976) discusses factors believed to facilitate or inhibit creative behavior and reports results that suggest group hypnosis may be effective in improving the ability of subjects to solve real-life problems more creatively.

Gur and Reyher (1976) report that hypnotized subjects performed significantly better than simulators and waking controls on figural and overall creativity scores of the Torrance Test of Creativity and McDonald (1985) found hypnosis did not generally improve creative performance as measured by the T.T.o.C. but not on verbal creativity. Although these results can hardly be taken as an indication that hypnosis is incapable of modifying scores on that instrument since no specific suggestions of better performance seem to have been made.

In addition to removing factors that inhibit creative expression, hypnosis may be useful in encouraging the imagery and imagination that are often involved in creative thinking. Gur and Reyher (1976) suggest that the psychoanalytic concept of "regression in the service of the ego" may be an appropriate description of how hypnosis may aid creativity. In other words, a per is regressed to permit a more promitive type of pictoral imagery in thinking, which my be better for solving some problems creatively than the usual adult patter of verbal thought.

Simon (1977) and Khatami (1978) speculate on the role of altered states of consciousness in the genesis of creative thinking and compare this type of thought process with conventional logical thinking.

Since persons with a good imagination and the ability to generate imagery are typically good hypnotic subjects, it would appear likely that future research may disclose a relationship between hypnotic susceptibility and creativity. This is also suggested by Patricia Bower's (1978) work, in which she found that highly creative people and good hypnotic subjects report their creative behavior or hypnotic responses as occurring effortlessly.

She thus investigated the possibility that the capacity for "effortless experiencing" might be a common denominator between creativity and hypnosis. She found a high degree of correlation between susceptibility and both effortless experiencing and creative abilities.