Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology



First Advisor

Albert Lott


Studies have repeatedly demonstrated a developmental trend in suggestibility - - responsiveness to suggestions traditionally associated with the term hypnotism is low for those under six years of age, rises to a peak near the ages of nine through eleven, and progressively declines thereafter. It has also been consistently shown that with adult populations, involvement in task-relevant imaginings, functions as a cognitive strategy enhancing response to suggestion. On the basis of evidence such as this, at least one investigator, J. Hildard, has suggested that changes 1n responsiveness with age are due to variations in imaginative involvement. Specifically, it has 'been proposed that the decline in suggestibility Thinking be the result of an increased developmental trend toward a rational-logical mode of thinking, which is inconsistent with the involvement in imaginative processes so important in responsiveness to suggestion. While the developmental literature relating to free fantasy-like activity lends some support to this notion, no previous study has attempted to determine either a) the relationship between the passing or falling of suggestions and involvement in task relevant imaginings in subjects from the lower age levels, orb) changes occurring in these imaginative involvements with age.

In the present investigation, one hundred subjects between the ages of eight and seventeen were individually tested in a single session. Each subject was administered standardized task-motivational instructions followed by an arm-levitation suggestion, an arm-catalepsy suggestion, and an amnesia suggestion for the number four. Each subject was interviewed immediately after his response to each suggestion to determine whether or not he engaged in suggestion-related imaginings and, if so, the elaborateness and duration of these imaginings.

It was found that, regardless of age, subjects who passed the suggestions a) tended to report engaging in suggestion-related imaginings, whereas those who did not respond were less likely to engage in this pattern of imaginative responding, and b) reported engaging in imaginings that were more elaborate and of longer duration than those who failed the suggestions. In addition, partial support was obtained regarding the notion of age trends in imaginative involvement. Elaborateness and duration of imaginings were characteristically low for the youngest subjects, rose to a peak around the ages of ten to twelve, and declined thereafter. However, analyses indicated that only for elaborateness of imaginings in response to the amnesia suggestion was there a significant curvilinear relation with age, the remaining relationships, while in the same direction, did not achieve conventional. levels of significance. It is suggested that future research considering developmental trends in imaginative involvement may prove to be more productive if variations are examined across one-year age groups, and a larger battery of test suggestions is employed.



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