Personality and the differential presentation of relaxation as either learning or hypnosis : including an initial investigation of the relationship between visual imagery and profound relaxation



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The present study was designed to investigate the effects of differentially presenting a relaxation exercise as either hypnosis or as learning relaxation to groups of individuals differing according to personality. Subjects were classified as either internal, average, or external according to Rotter's Control of Reinforcement (l-E) Scale. A total of 72 subjects were selected from 448 students in an Introduction to Psychology course completing the l-E scale. The 448 students were trichotimized according to l-E score and then 24 in each group were randomly selected. Randomly, twelve subjects in each l-E group were assigned to read a description of the relaxation exercises as hypnosis, and twelve were assigned to read a description in learning terms. All groups listened to the same taped relaxation exercise. Subjects were given pre and post subjective and physiological state anxiety measures. The findings indicated no interaction between personality and the differential presentation of relaxation on measures of subjective anxiety. Additionally, blood pressure and pulse rate did not show an interaction effect. Electromyographic data indicated a significant interaction between personality and the differential presentation of relaxation (p = .047). Internal locus of control subjects achieved a greater state of muscle relaxation when presented with a learning exercise (mean reduction: Internal-Hypnosis = 4.54, Internal-Learning = 10.55). External locus of control subjects relaxed more with the exercises described as hypnosis (mean reduction: External-Hypnosis = 6.96, External-Learning = 9.14). These data tend to support the proposal that if a clinician presents relaxation in terms consistent with his own orientation, but not that of the patient's, less than optimal results may ensue. This is discussed in terms of Milton Erickson's 'Utilization Theory' (I 952). Another study was also undertaken to explore the relationship between vividness of imagery and depth of relaxation. No relationship was established.