Exploring subliminal processing using instrumental hypnosis

Cognitive scientists typically divide cognition between controlled and automatic processes. This framework construes controlled processes as being voluntary and effortful and automatic processes as involuntarily and effortless. Automatic processes are therefore considered outside the scope of voluntary control. Undermining this notion, studies show that hypnosis – an enhanced form of mental absorption and self-regulation – can actually suppress automatic response. Hypnosis therefore provides a mean to alter mental processes that appear immune to cognitive control. The current project aims to test the boundaries of cognitive control by investigating the limit of this effect and explore the corresponding neural patterns. Because subliminal processes sit below the threshold of awareness, researchers often view them as hard-wired and highly resistant to controlled processes. It is indeed difficult to conceive how one would be able to alter mental processes situated beyond the horizon of consciousness.
Challenging this assumption, we will demonstrate that hypnosis can act at the level of subliminal perception. We intend to employ state-of-the-art psychophysics and human-brain electrophysiology to demonstrate that unconscious perception is actually permeable to cognitive control and measure the corresponding neural dynamics. TO BE CONT’D

Faculty Supervisor:

Amir Raz


Mathieu Landry






McGill University


Globalink Research Award

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