Psychological Bulletin 1979, Vol. 86, No.

5, 1132-1148

The Alpha Experience Revisited: Biofeedback in the Transformation of Psychological State
William B. Plotkin State University of New York at Albany Presented is a review of empirical research and conceptual perspectives on the development of unusual experiential states during electroencephalographic (EEG) alpha-biofeedback training. It is concluded that the occurrence of the "alpha experience" is relatively independent of the strength or density of EEG alpha activity, and that the transformation in experience during feedback training can be accounted for by eight categories of complexly interrelated factors: >(a) sensory deprivation, (b) sustained alertness, (c) concentration/meditation, (d) introspective sensitization, (e) expectation, (f) perceived success at the feedback task, (g) attribution processes, and (h) individual differences. Conceptual and empirical implications for biofeedback and for the study of physiological-experiential relationships are discussed. During electroencephalographic (EEG) alpha-feedback training, trainees are presented with immediate moment-to-moment information on the strength or density of their EEG alpha rhythms, which provides them the opportunity, in principle, to learn to increase, maintain, or decrease the strength of this brain rhythm. Of special significance is the observation by some researchers (Brown, 1970; Hardt & Kamiya, 1976a; Hart, 1968; Kamiya, 1968, 1969; Nowlis & Kamiya, 1970) that many persons report entering a quasi-meditational state of consciousness during alpha-enhancement feedback training. This state of consciousness, often called the "alpha experience," is usually identified as a pleasant, relaxed, and serene state, characterized by a loss of body and time awareness, an absence or diminution of thought, and a feeling of egolessness (Brown, 1970; Hart, 1968; Kamiya, 1968, 1969; Nideffer, 1973; Nowlis & Kamiya, 1970; Plotkin, 1976a, 1977; Plotkin & Cohen, 1976; Walsh, 1974). Initially, researchers claimed that the alpha experience was intrinsically and directly assoRequests for reprints should be sent to William B. Plotkin, who is now at the Klamath Mental Health Center, 3314 Vandenberg Road, Klamath Falls, Oregon 97601.

ciated with enhanced alpha levels, and that the alpha experience was, in fact, caused by enhanced alpha levels (hence, the name, alpha experience). Frequently cited in support of this view (in addition to the early alpha-biofeedback studies) was the observation that the EEGs of meditators often show increased alpha strength during meditation (Anand, Chhina, & Singh, 1961; Kasamatsu & Hirai, 1969; Wallace, 1970). The possibility of directly influencing experience through voluntary control of the electrical activity of the brain was a rather provocative notion. Indeed, the great popular interest in biofeedback may have been primarily generated by the idea that brain wave - feedback training had the potential for being a more efficacious method than the traditional meditative disciplines for effecting meditative states, or that at least it was a method better suited to the "modern, Western temperament." More recently, however, considerable doubt has arisen that changes in a person's EEG alpha level have any direct or simple relationship to the achievement of the alpha experience. Several studies have failed to find a significant occurrence of alpha experiences during alpha-enhancement feedback, especially when the research participants were not led to expect such an experience (Beatty,

Copyright 1979 by the American Psychological Association, Inc. 0033-2909/79/8605-1132$00.75




1972; Lynch, Paskewitz, & Orne, 1974; Orne & Paskewitz, 1974; Peper, 1971; Plotkin, 1976a; Plotkin & Cohen, 1976; Regestein, Pegram, Cook, & Bradley, 1974; Travis, Kondo, & Knott, 1975). Plotkin (1976a), for example, found that one of his groups of research participants, who did not know which brain waves were being studied and who were not told what kind of experiences to expect, described experiences that showed "no consistent similarities with the experiences that have been widely associated with high and low alpha states" (p. 89). Travis et al. summarized the experiential reports of 140 persons who participated in four studies that examined the alpha-enhancement phenomenon. They concluded that the alpha-enhancement task is not as overwhelmingly pleasant as had been suggested by Nowlis and Kamiya (1970) and by Brown (1970). On the other hand, there are several studies that have replicated the finding of alpha experiences during alpha training. However, when the relationship between EEC alpha and experience has been examined, these studies have uniformly failed to find significant correlations between the degree of alpha enhancement and the intensity or likelihood of alpha experiences (Beatty, 1972; Lynch et al., 1974; Plotkin, 1977; Plotkin, Mazer, & Loewy, 1976; Sacks, Fenwick, Marks, Fenton, & Hebden, 1972). Lynch et al., for example, concluded that their research participants' "largely positive reactions to the feedback procedure were not the result of large increases in alpha activity and are certainly not likely to have been a function of alpha activity levels alone" (p. 409). Using more formalized correlation techniques, Plotkin et al. found no correlation between the degree of alpha enhancement and the likelihood of an alpha experience. Even more damaging to the thesis that the alpha experience is the result of alpha enhancement is the recently uncovered fact that there is absolutely no published evidence that alpha training has ever resulted in an unequivocal case of true alpha enhancement (Johnson, 1977; Paskewitz, 1977; Plotkin, 1978). That is, alpha levels have never been shown to rise above prefeedback eyes-closed

resting baseline levels. The subbaseline increases in alpha production that have often been reported during alpha training have been shown to be the result of the gradual dissipation or neutralization of alpha-inhibitory influences, which is a case of disinhibition or habituation, not enhancement (Lynch & Paskewitz, 1971; Paskewitz, 1977; Paskewitz, Lynch, Orne, & Costello, 1970; Plotkin, 1978; Plotkin, Note 1). Cognizant of this problem, Hardt and Kamiya (1976a) have argued that the failure to find reliable and significant alpha enhancement is due to the use of "deficient methodologies," such as insufficient training time or a percentage-of-time measure of alpha rather than an amplitude-integration measure (Hardt & Kamiya, 1976b). However, Plotkin (1976b) has pointed out that most of these "suspect" studies used methodologies that were similar to, or nearly identical with, those of the original studies of alpha-feedback training—those by Brown (1970), Kamiya (1968, 1969), and Nowlis and Kamiya (1970). Moreover, a recent study (Plotkin, 1978) that employed the precise methodology recommended by Hardt and Kamiya (1976a), including almost 9 hours of 'total training time, found no evidence for the learned enhancement of alpha strength significantly above optimal eyesclosed baseline levels, although in some cases alpha-enhancement training did result in the maintenance of optimal alpha levels. In summary, there is now solid support for the conclusion that alpha-enhancement training per se is neither necessary for, nor especially facilitative of, the achievement of the alpha experience. However, it is important to note that the phenomenological authenticity of the alpha experience is not being called into question here. The point is that alpha enhancement per se has not been instrumental in—or intrinsic to—the achievement of this experience. Although there is always 'the problem of bias and compliance in the report of experiential states, most alpha researchers have learned that there is simply no doubt that many of their trainees have experienced highly unusual, meaningful, and occasionally profound alterations in consciousness during feedback training. That this is so is perhaps



Table 1 Factors Involved in the Development of Unusual Experimental States During Electroencephalograph Alpha-Biofeedback Training 1. Sensory deprivation due to (a) The biofeedback setting (b) Alpha-feedback-augmented sensory limitation 2. Sustained alertness (during sensory deprivation) 3. Concentration/meditation 4. Introspective sensitization 5. Suggestion and expectation due to (a) Preexperimental expectancies (b) Implicit suggestion (c) Explicit suggestion 6. Perceived success at the feedback task 7. Dual attribution of responsibility inherent in biofeedback training 8. Individual differences

best demonstrated by the extraordinary eagerness of many alpha trainees to repeat the experience, to learn all they can about it, and to spend considerable sums of money to purchase or rent the equipment that is seen as necessary for the generation of the experience (Lawrence, 1972). A recent study (Plotkin, in press) that employed a strong demand for honesty on experiential reports also supports this view. The question at this point is not whether these experiential reports are dismissable as artifacts, but rather, given that the attainment of the alpha experience during alpha training is not related to any unusual change in EEC alpha, how then do we explain the occurrence of these experiences? We now appear to be in a position to offer an adequate answer to this question. Over the past few years there has accumulated a substantial body of evidence that demonstrates that there are at least eight categories of complexly interrelated factors (variables) that account for the occurrence of alpha experiences and similar states during alpha-biofeedback training. Table 1 presents an outline of these eight categories. Note that alpha enhancement is not among them. Besides elucidating the development of alpha experiences, a review and discussion of these eight variables will highlight and illustrate several of the subtle, albeit critical, difficulties inherent in the attempt to estab-

lish direct or intrinsic relations between physiological states or processes and experiential or behavioral phenomena. There are complex methodological problems involved in determining how a particular physiological state is related, if at all, to a particular psychological state or behavior, and in deciding whether biofeedback or other means of altering particular physiological activities are critical to— or incidental to—the observed changes in psychological state (Shapiro, 1977). An understanding of how unusual experiential states are generated in the biofeedback setting will also enhance our knowledge of biofeedback training in its larger context of social and therapeutic influence—as opposed to its narrower definition as a method of facilitating physiological self-control. Implicit in the reconstruction I shall offer of the development of these experiences will be a rejection of the reductionist and mechanist position that holds that psychological states are simply the consequence of efficient causes such as physiological processes and reinforcement histories. Instead, I shall proceed from a contextual human-action perspective, which recognizes that psychological state is one parameter or strand in a complex behavioral process that includes cognitions, motivations, and social significances as other parameters, as well as physiological processes and learning histories (Ossorio, 1973, 1978; Sarbin, 1977). Sensory Deprivation One hypothesis with respect to the development of unusual experiential states during alpha training is that the alpha-feedback setting happens to be conducive to the development of sensory deprivation and the associated alterations in consciousness (Zubeck, 1969). There appear to be, in fact, two independent aspects of alpha-training procedures that facilitate sensory deprivation: the attributes of the general biofeedback setting and the effects of alpha-enhancement training per se. The Biofeedback Setting There are several ways in which the typical alpha-biofeedback setting resembles those that



are employed in sensory-deprivation experimentation. Trainees are usually asked to sit in a comfortable chair or to lie on a bed, which is typically situated in a -small soundproof or sound-attenuated room with low lighting or none at all. In addition, trainees are commonly asked to keep their eyes closed, to relax, and not to move around once they have become comfortable, in order not to disturb the EEC electrodes, which are sensitive to electromyographic (EMG) artifacts. Moreover, the standard feedback signal is a monotonous tone, usually appearing over a headphone set, which the trainees are constantly monitoring in order to track their changing alpha levels. Given these aspects of the typical alpha-feedback setting, it is not surprising that trainees often report becoming relaxed, with a loss of body awareness and with the associated sensory-deprivation feelings of lightness, floating, flying, or losing awareness of the "external" environment. However, as with sensory deprivation, some persons may react to this setting by falling asleep or with boredom, and some with anxiety or panic. The reason these latter responses are relatively rare during alpha training involves other factors discussed later, especially Factors 2 and 5 (see Table 1). There has been only one piece of research (Plotkin, 1978) that has explicitly tested the hypothesis that the occurrence of the alpha experience is related to the sensory-deprivation aspects of the feedback setting. In this study, I found that persons who engaged in 10 52-min sessions of eyes-closed alpha-enhancement training without intrasession rest periods rated their experiences to be significantly more enjoyable and intense than did persons who engaged in precisely the same training with 20-sec eyes-open (and lights-on) rest periods interspersed every 4 min. The only significant difference in alpha levels between the two groups was a greater mean amplitude, on Session 1 only, for the group that did have the rest periods. Nevertheless, persons in the no-rest (high sensory-deprivation) group reported experiencing less body weight, greater personal involvement, faster speed of time, greater happiness, more emotional activation, greater personal relevance,

more thought, and a "higher" state of consciousness. Moreover, relative to what might be thought to be more common procedures, the procedure of interspersing rest periods does not decrease the occurrence of alpha experiences: most of the studies that have reported the occurrence of these experiences have employed similar interspersed rest periods (Brown, 1970; Kamiya, 1968, 1969; Nowlis & Kamiya, 1970; Plotkin, 1976a, 1977; Walsh, 1974). Alpha-Feedback-Augmented Sensory Limitation Peper (1971) has noted another way in which the alpha experience may be related to a sensory-deprivation state. The research of Mulholland, his associates, and others (Mulholland, 1968, 1972, 1973; Mulholland & Peper, 1971; Wertheim, 1974) has demonstrated that the absence of occipital EEG alpha blocking reflects the absence of cortical oculomotor processing (in essence, abundant alpha occurs when a person is awake and "not looking"). Several other research reports (Chatrian, Magnus, Petersen, & Lazarte, 1959; Galin & Ornstein, 1972; Jasper & Penfield, 1949; Klass & Bickford, 1957; Kreitman & Shaw, 1965; Morgan, MacDonald, & Hilgard, 1974; Schwartz, Davidson, & Pugash, 1976) have suggested that the occurrence of alpha blocking at cortical locations other than the occipital lobe is also due to neural processing at the cortical location in question, with the concomitant activation of the behavioral processes associated with that location. In short, abundant alpha is known to accompany (or to be a sign of) sensory, motor, or cognitive quiescence at the cortical level. Thus, the maintenance of one's optimal occipital alpha level (which is facilitated through alpha-enhancement training; Plotkin, 1978; Note 1) would be expected to be accompanied by an absence of visual control processes. Moreover, because of the dominance of vision in the human being, alpha maintenance in the occipital lobe alone would be expected to have a generalized sensory limitation effect; that is, we would expect that the easiest way for an awake human being to minimize oculomotor activity—and thereby optimize



occipital alpha levels—would be for him to focus his attention on cognitive activity, and thus away from all sensory modalities, inasmuch as oculomotor activity is a concomitant of all sensory orientations. In summary, it appears that occipital alphaenhancement training results, to some degree, in a self-imposed sensory-deprivation state. Such a state would be expected to be characterized by increased nonsensory activity or awareness. However, the particular nature of this wakeful nonsensory state (e.g., introspection, daydreaming, boredom, hallucination, and some forms of meditation or contemplation) will depend on factors other than EEC alpha. Plotkin (1976a) and Plotkin and Cohen (1976) have demonstrated that there is a wide range of experiences that occur during alpha-enhancement training when the trainees are not led to expect any particular experiences. However, all of them are instances of nonsensory—and in particular, nonvisual— states. Sustained Alertness During Sensory Deprivation The quality of the experiences that occur during sensory deprivation would be expected to be very much influenced by the concurrent degree of alertness or drowsiness. In considering 'the explicit and implicit demands for relaxation in conjunction with the physical attributes of the feedback setting, one would expect drowsiness to regularly accompany alpha-feedback training. This development would be a problem for the researcher who is interested in evoking the alpha experience, since it cannot be experienced if the trainee is asleep; the alpha experience is an alert (although relaxed) state. It is fortunate, therefore, that alpha-enhancement training facilitates the maintenance of alert wakefulness by facilitating the maintenance of naturally occurring eyes-closed alpha amplitudes. This feature of alpha training stems from one of the oldest EEG findings: Alpha activity decreases in amplitude and frequency, and essentially disappears, as a person becomes drowsy and approaches sleep (Adrian & Mathews, 1934; Berger, 1930; Lindsley, 1960). Thus, in order to keep the

feedback signal on, the alpha trainee must learn to stay alert under sensory-deprivation conditions, a nontrivial task at which most trainees are nevertheless able to succeed. However, any task that would facilitate alertness and be compatible with sensory deprivation would do as well as alpha training in this regard. Yet we should note that alpha training is especially well suited for this" purpose because it can be an absorbing task despite the fact that it involves only monotonous sensory stimulation (which renders it compatible with sensory deprivation). Relaxed alertness may also be facilitated in the biofeedback setting by an upright posture (as in the traditional meditation position), by high levels of motivation or expectancy (to be discussed later), and, of course, by normal amounts of prior sleep. The role of alpha training in facilitating relaxed alertness may help to explain why research participants in a noncontingent-feedback or a no-feedback group might not be as likely to report alpha experiences as those in a contingent-feedback group: The noncontingent and no-feedback participants are more likely to drowse off. Thus, it is not the case that enhanced alpha causes the alpha experience, or even that maintained optimal alpha is uniquely, intrinsically, or directly associated with the alpha experience; rather, drowsiness or sleep (which is accompanied by reduced alpha levels) is ^compatible with the alpha experience. Maintained optimal alpha per se is as closely associated with alert daydreaming, mind-wandering, and boredom as it is with meditative experiences. Therefore, although alpha training per se may contribute to the occurrence of the alpha experience, it is not especially facilitative of it. The other factors discussed above and those to be examined below have been shown to be much more critical and influential in effecting the experiential state. Concentration/Meditation In addition to its sensory-deprivation qualities, the alpha-training procedure has some other important similarities to many meditation exercises, for example, immobility and concentration on, or sustained attention to, a



monotonous stimulus. The alpha trainees' task is to keep the alpha tone on as long (and/ or as loud) as possible. To accomplish this, they must intently focus their attention on the feedback tone, its variation, and the relation between the tone and their behavior and experience. This prolonged concentration on the feedback tone is formally equivalent to the meditator's sustained attention to breathing, to a mantra, to chanting or prayer, to a mandala, or to any other invariant or regular form (i.e., meditation object). As Naranjo and Ornstein (1971) have pointed out, this form of meditation exercise, which they call concentrative meditation, eventually results in a temporary suspension of ordinary thought, which is a central feature of the meditative (and alpha) experience, also reported by Deikman (1963) in his study of experimental meditation. However, since the significance of the feedback signal, in its role as a meditation object, derives from its monotony, neutrality, and simplicity and not from its EEC contingency, it follows that a noncontingent tone would serve as well, in this regard, as the alpha tone in facilitating the generation of the alpha experience. Introspective Sensitization Recently, in a highly intriguing study, Hunt and Chefurka (1976) demonstrated that short periods of simply paying direct attention to one's "immediate subjective experience" elicited "anomalous subjective reports" and "altered-state effects" (p. 867). By "immediate subjective experience," Hunt and Chefurka mean "the bare features of momentary awareness without any reference to the consensual world of objects, persons, and meanings" (p. 868)—the "stimulus qualities" of sensations devoid of their significance as observations of everyday objects. Research participants who were requested simply to pay attention in this fashion for 10 min, without any explicit suggestions as to what to expect, generally reported "visual anomalies, uncanny emotion, . . . cognitive disorientation, and . . . feelings of interpersonal detachment and loneliness" (p. 872). The authors state that such data "suggest that altered-state effects can be tapped in very short time periods in

any situation involving lack of movement, isolation, and at least implicitly, some attention to subjective experience" (p. 869). The alpha-itraining situation certainly includes all of the latter three features. As we have seen, isolation and lack of movement are components of the sensory-deprivation qualities of the biofeedback setting. In addition, nearly all alpha-training studies include, at the very least, the implication that the training will result in mild to profound changes in experiential state. These experiential changes, which include changes in body awareness, are often explicitly outlined for the research participant before the onset of training (as will be discussed later). Thus we can conclude that the simple act of paying direct attention to one's sensations as sensations, which is a feature of the alpha-training context, can be expected to result to some degree in unusual experiential reports, independent of explicit suggestion, the degree of alertness, EEC alpha amplitudes, the presence of tones, or EEC-tone contingencies. "Introspective sensitization," as Hunt and Chefurka (1976) have termed it, is as much a feature of the alpha-training setting as it is of sensory deprivation, meditation, and hypnosis. Erickson, Rossi, and Rossi (1976), for example, have pointed out that
the essential identity between periods of introspection and trance was demonstrated by Erickson . . . when he found that groups of subjects asked to perform a task in introspection underwent behavioral and subjective experiences that were similar to those they had when they went through a classical hypnotic induction, (p. 196)

Hunt and Chefurka (1976) also found that the experimental protocols of the classical introspectionists (e.g., Titchener, 1912; James, 1950; and Spearman, 1923) "revealed subjective anomalies similar to those found in drug and meditational states" (p. 867). Suggestion and Expectation The most widely endorsed hypotheses advanced to explain why unusual experiential states occur during alpha training have evoked such social psychological factors as suggestion, expectation, and the demand characteristics of the experimental setting (Beatty,



1972; DeGood, Elkin, Lessin, & Valle, 1977; Lynch & Paskewitz, 1971; Lynch et al., 1974; Peper, 1971; Plotkin, 1976a, 1976b, 1977, 1978; Plotkin & Cohen, 1976; Plotkin et al., 1976; Valle & Levine, 1975; Walsh, 1974; Glaros, Note 2). The central phenomenon here, of course, is the research participants' expectations about what sort of experiential changes will take place during training. These expectations can come about through (a) preexperimental knowledge of alpha waves and/ or alpha training, (b) explicit suggestion from the experimenter or from confederates, or (c) implici't suggestion (i.e., other demand characteristics). It is certainly not surprising that expectation would play an important role in the development of alpha experiences during alpha-feedback training. After all, it has long been known that expectation has a very powerful influence on the often unusual experiences associated with hypnosis, relaxation procedures, meditation, and psychoactive drugs, as well as on all sorts of more common experiences. In reference to alpha training, Lynch and Paskewitz (1971), for instance, have made the following observation:
Subjective reports are frequently influenced by the experimental setting and the course of the experiment itself. It is certainly possible that some of the reports of Ss in the feedback situation are influenced by what Orne (1962) has called the "demand characteristics" of the situation, that is, Ss enter the experiment expecting to experience alterations in mood, expecting the session to be pleasant, perhaps a "high," or if they don't feel this way initially, the experimenter may reinforce such feelings, both in the pre-experimental interview and in the actual instructions given during the experiment, (p. 212)

periential questionnaires indicated that only the knowledgeable persons experienced different subjective states during the enhancement and suppression sessions, with their reports of enhancement training being significantly more like the alpha experience than their reports of suppression training were. Implicit Suggestion To my knowledge, the effects of implicit suggestion in the alpha-feedback setting have never been documented independently of preexperimental expectancy. For instance, when expectancies are operative, one would naturally expect that informing a subject that she or he is about to begin an "enhancement trial" would serve as an implicit suggestion that the alpha experience is about to occur. This view offers the most plausible interpretation of a recent study by Glaros (Note 2), in which participants in one of the groups recruited for an "alpha-wave experiment" were given noncontingent (tape-recorded) feedback during both "enhancement" and "suppression" trials. These persons reported significantly more alpha experiences during the "enhancement" trials even though there was no difference in EEC alpha density between these two conditions. Implicit suggestion should also be contrasted with inadvertent or informal suggestion, which occurs when the suggestion is not a formal component of the experimental instructions. Presumably, inadvertent or informal suggestion was at play in the early alpha studies, in which it appeared that there was a unique or intrinsic relation between alpha enhancement and the alpha experience (Brown, 1970; Kamiya, 1969; Nowlis & Kamiya, 1970). Explicit Suggestion The effects of explicit suggestion on reported experiences during alpha training have been an informal or secondary focus of several studies (e.g., Beatty, 1972; Lynch et al., 1974; Plotkin, 1976a). Beatty compared the experiential reports of participants in two contingent-feedback groups, one of which received no information about the alpha ex-

Preexperimental Expectancies There has been only one published study (DeGood et al., 1977) that has explicitly assessed the effect of preexperimental expectancies on experiential reports of alpha training. DeGood et al. gave each of their research participants two 30-min feedback sessions: an alpha-enhancement session and an alphasuppression session. Half of the participants had indicated on a screening questionnaire that they had some knowledge of alpha training, whereas the other half were "unknowledgeable" persons. The postexperimental ex-



perience, while the other was informed of the phenomenological attributes of the experience. He reported a lack of uniformity in the reports of the no-information group. However, "subjects in the Information Condition, presumably because of their initial biases, reported the typical correlates of brain alpha rhythms—relaxation, calmness, inner awareness, etc." (p. 154). Lynch et al. reported that most of their subjects had positive reactions to the feedback procedures, but that "the most likely explanation for these positive reports rests in the fact that Ss were told that the experience would be a pleasant one" (p. 409). There are three published studies that have systematically investigated the effects of explicit suggestion concerning the nature of the alpha experience (Plotkin, 1977; Plotkin et al., 1976; Walsh, 1974). Walsh employed a bidirectional design in which half of his research participants received alpha-suppression feedback and half received alpha-enhancement feedback. In addition, half of the persons in each of these groups received a "positive" alpha-experience set (explicit suggestion as to the nature of the experience), and half received a neutral set (general description of several possible experiences). Each research participant then received two 20-min sessions of alpha training, one with eyes open and one with eyes closed. Walsh found the typical alpha experience to be reported only when persons were given both the alpha-experience set and alpha-enhancement feedback. Either alone was not sufficient. Walsh interpreted these results as not only demonstrating the importance of suggestion, but also showing that the alpha experience is directly associated with the alpha rhythm, though this association may be blocked by "situational factors" unless the person is provided with "appropriate preparation for the experience, including some concepts to use in describing it" (p. 433). This latter conclusion, however, is not warranted by Walsh's data, since there is the following alternative interpretation, which has considerable independent support. Rather than demonstrating that the alpha experience is directly associated with alpha activity, Walsh's study may have shown only

that the relative absence of alpha activity (during alpha-suppression feedback!) is partially or wholly incompatible with the alpha experience (as well as with numerous other sorts of experiences associated with an inhibition of alpha blocking). According to this interpretation, the absence of alpha experiences in the groups that received alpha-suppression feedback (regardless of whether or not they also received the alpha-experience set) would be explained by this incompatibility rather than by a special, direct, or oneto-one relation between the alpha rhythm and the alpha experience. The finding of significantly more alpha experiences in the alphaenhancement group that also received the alpha-experience set can be straightforwardly interpreted as demonstrating the effects of suggestion. Plotkin (1976a, 1977) and Plotkin and Cohen (1976) present data that demonstrate that alpha suppression, through its association with oculomotor activation, is antagonistic to the occurrence of the alpha experience. In a related study, Plotkin et al. (1976) attempted to demonstrate the effects of suggestion on the experience of alpha! training. Before the start of the 30-min eyes-open alpha-enhancement training, one group received an alpha-experience set; these research participants were explicitly informed about the specific experiential changes that were associated with increases in the volume of the feedback tone. The other group received no explicit suggestions whatever regarding what sort of experiences, if any, to expect. (Note that this no-set group differs from Walsh's neutral-set group. The latter was informed of a wide range of possible experiences, which included but did not emphasize the alpha experience.) No mention jvas made to any participant in either group i that the research had anything to do with alpha waves (in order not to evoke preexperimental expectations). After the session, written experiential reports were collected and 'rated by blind judges on their similarity to a standardized description of the alpha experience. Somewhat surprisingly, the results showed that the likelihood of an alpha experience was not significantly different for! the two



groups. However, this finding later came into focus when it was discovered that many of the research participants had spontaneously noted, on their postexperimental questionnaires, that they had felt very frustrated in their attempts to increase the tone volume (i.e., to enhance alpha). Thus, the alphaexperience set may have been ineffective at evoking alpha experiences because (a) the experience of frustration was incompatible with the alpha experience and (b) many trainees saw themselves as having failed at the very task that leads, they were told, to the alpha experience. This interpretation, then, suggests that the degree of perceived success at the feedback task should interact strongly with expectation. This hypothesis was tested in the following study. Perceived Success at the Feedback Task After the Plotkin et al. (1976) study, I was interested in demonstrating two separate points: (a) that the intensity of experiences reported to occur during alpha training would depend on perceived success at the enhancement task and be independent of actual success (the actual alpha amplitude relative to baseline) and (b) that the specific quality of the experiences would depend on the explicit suggestions given to the participants, assuming that preexperimental expectations were minimized. These two hypotheses were incorporated into a single 2 x 2 factorial design, in which the two between-group variables were Perceived Success (high or low) and Expectation (of one of two different sorts of altered states of consciousness). All participants received four 30-min. sessions of eyes-closed alpha-enhancement training, although it was insured that no participant thought that he or she was participating in research that was at all concerned with alpha waves. Persons who were randomly assigned to the lambda-expectation group were led to believe that they were training to enhance their "lambda" brainwaves, whereas the participants in the kappa-expectation group were told they were going to learn "kappa" enhancement. Both groups were told that they would find themselves in an altered state of consciousness (the "lambda" or "kappa"

state, depending on the group) if they were successful at lambda (or kappa) enhancement. To determine the power of the Expectation variable, the lambda and kappa states were described as maximally dissimilar within the constraints of the biofeedback setting and the necessity of matching the motivational levels of the two groups. For instance, because of the sensory-deprivation qualities of the feedback setting, both groups were informed that the experience involved a loss of body awareness. Also, to insure an equal motivation to succeed, both states were described as pleasant, relaxing, and highly unusual and special. On the other hand, the two states were defined at opposite poles with respect to the more definitive aspects of the alpha experience: (a) the deliberateness and speed of thought, (b) the degree of "ego awareness," (c) emotionality, and (d) awareness of time. The lambda state (which corresponds to the alpha experience) was situated at the low end of each of these four dimensions, and the kappa state, at the high end. The major distinctive features of the lambda state were described as follows in the protocols:
The "mind" slows down considerably during the lambda experience until the point is reached at which there is absolutely no thought, a condition often described as "blank mind." Even in the lighter stages . . . thought is very slow and free-flowing. . . . Eventually, thought stops entirely. However, the mind is nevertheless alert and awake at all times. . . . It is a clear and serene state—beyond emotion. . . . It is an "egoless" state, characterized by little or no awareness of oneself as a separate entity.

In contrast, the kappa state was described in the following manner:
The "mind" becomes much more efficient in a certain sense. That is, the kappa experience is a state of very abundant and highly deliberate thought; we are able to direct our thought to any topic of interest and to process information at an extremely rapid rate. . . . It is characterized by abundant personal thought of a significant and often insightful nature. The kappa experience often involves thoughts of interpersonal experiences that are emotionally relevant . . . you become very aware of your personal strengths and of precisely who you are as a person.

Although all the research participants received the same form of contingent alpha feedback, half of those in each of the above groups—the "success" subjects—were made



to feel highly successful at the feedback task (regardless of the actual degree of success) by reporting to them (every 2 min via an intercom) a three-digit number that was ostensibly proportional to the proceeding trial's average alpha ("lambda" or "kappa") amplitude but was, in fact, the actual score inflated at a rate of an additional 2% every 2 min. Thus, while these "success scores" were still responsive to actual alpha amplitudes, and while the actual feedback tones were still being used, these trainees were nevertheless led to believe that they were improving at a somewhat remarkable, yet convincing, rate. In addition, persons in the Success group were given frequent verbal praise. On the other hand, persons in the "Failure" groups were given their actual 2min scores, although their instructions informed them that the kappa (or lambda) experience does not even begin to occur until kappa (or lambda) strength is increased by at least 100% over initial levels (which never happens). The fact that all participants were given contingent feedback is noteworthy. As many researchers have informally noted in their own labs, and as Strayer, Scott, and Bakan (1973) 'have formally demonstrated, many persons receiving noncontingent alpha feedback quickly grow discouraged, and often become drowsy or fall asleep. For this reason, noncontingent feedback (e.g., tape-recorded tones of a successful trainee) would not be effective for the Success group (they would not be as likely to feel successful) or for the Failure group (because, if they became drowsy, they would then manifest lower alpha amplitudes than the Success group, in which case perceived success would be confounded with actual success). In the experiment under consideration, then, the Failure subjects were able to feel that they had at least some control over the tone (which they did, in fact, have), although they were not able to produce the degree of enhancement that they believed was required to experience the alteration in consciousness. At any rate, it is because of the danger of the noncontingency being recognized that a noncontingent-feed-

back group is often not an adequate control group (Plotkin, Note 1). The results from this 'study were straightforward. In general, and with few exceptions, in the written postexperimental questionnaires persons in the Kappa-^Success group reported very powerful and genuine kappa experiences, while persons in the Lambda-Success group reported authentic lambda experiences. Most persons in both of the Failure groups reported "nothing unusual." These differences were borne out by statistical comparisons of the participants' ratings of their experiences on a series of l-to-9 scales (Plotkin, 1$77). As for the EEGs, there were no differences even approaching statistical significance between any of these groups in the degree of alpha enhancement actually achieved. These results demonstrated (a) that the general intensity, pleasantness, value:, and the degree of relaxation and sensory-deprivation effects that are reported to occur during alpha training are, indeed, very strongly influenced by the degree of perceived success at;the feedback task; (b) that there is a wide range of experiences compatible with the bipfeedback setting and abundant alpha activity—the "alpha experience" does not have ja unique relationship to EEC alpha; (c) that) the specific qualities of the reported experiences are closely related to the participants' expectations; and (d) that the quality and intensity of the experiences that occur during alpha training are independent of the actual degree of success at alpha enhancement. The Attribution Process in Alpha Training It has been established that alph^ training per se is of little importance in thfe generation of experiential changes during tjhese procedures. Nevertheless, it may be the |case that the alpha experience is more likely to occur when the research participant can attribute the experience to alpha training or to another biofeedback procedure. For instance, would we find—or expect to find—equally profound changes in consciousness if we simply placed a person in a dark room for an hourl and told him to expect—or to produce—certain experiential changes? What is it about the fact



that alpha trainees have this specific attribu- been prepared to see themselves as least tion available to explain to themselves the eligible for self-control of their problems, beoccurrence of these unusual experiences havior, and/or experience (Plotkin, Note 3). (namely, that they are the result of alpha Thus, the biofeedback approach takes adtraining) that might enhance the likelihood of vantage of a combination of internal and exsuch experiences occurring in the first place? ternal attributions of the suggested effect. An initial answer would be that alpha train- There are two reasons why a biofeedback ing serves essentially the same role as an in- intervention may lead to a more powerful active drug placebo: Just as there are many effect than an analogous external-placebo appersons who will experience a suggested psy- proach does. First is the fact that the experichological effect after ingesting a purportedly ence of success at the feedback task may conpsychoactive drug that is in fact only a sugar tribute directly to the outcome, especially pill, there are many biofeedback trainees who when the major effect is an experiential or will experience a suggested psychological ef- psychological change, as in the present case fect during purportedly psychoactive biofeed- of alpha training. The self-control of an "inback training that in fact has no significant voluntary" bodily process, especially one as physiological effect. (See Peek, 1977, for a mysterious and vital as brain wave activity, discerning conceptualization of the placebo may be justifiable grounds for feelings of unusual self-mastery and for the accompanyeffect.) However, the expectancy effect that is real- ing positive affect. Furthermore, in the case izable in the biofeedback setting may be more of biofeedback there is nothing ambiguous powerful, or may at least have more active about the occurrence of success: There is an dimensions, than the typical drug placebo. objective measure of progress in the form of There is one particular difference between a a feedback meter, tone, or other quantified biofeedback treatment and a drug placebo index of control. Thus, the clinician or exthat perhaps constitutes the most notable perimenter who employs biofeedback as a contribution of the entire biofeedback ap- placebo intervention can arrange for his or proach to therapeutic intervention: namely, her trainee to receive an indisputable feedthe opportunity for the client, patient, or re- back of "progress," which can serve as a very search participant to become an active agent compelling counteragent to a trainee's lack in the process of change, control, or therapy of self-confidence and hence, as a powerful (Stroebel & Glueck, 1973; Plotkin, Note 3). mobilizer of the trainee's motivations and Whereas the recipients of a drug placebo are skills. The second advantage that the biofeedback led to attribute the physiological, behavioral, or psychological transformation entirely to intervention has over the external placebo the drug (and thereby to reduce their own follows from the fact that biofeedback trainees sense of responsibility and self-control), bio- see themselves as active agents; they are feedback trainees (whether or not the train- therefore motivated to exert their own efforts ing per se has a humanly significant effect) toward producing the effect, an approach that will attribute a desirable outcome at least may be expected to be more successful than partially to themselves, which will enhance that of placebo-treated persons, who usually their sense of responsibility and self-control. have no reason to actively "help along" the In addition, there is, of course, a much greater drug (Valins & Nisbett, 1972). Alpha trainees likelihood of individuals eventually achieving would be expected to become more involved complete self-control (without the aid of drugs in—and thereby more influenced by—a proor biofeedback) when they start from a point cedure the effects of which they can see themof some perceived control and move to one selves as having facilitated than they would of more control, than when they attempt to in a procedure that is ostensibly produced go from no control to some control (Davison solely by an external agent. Thus, Valins and Nisbett recommend that & Valins, 1969). In short, unlike placebothe individual who is treated with a drug or treated persons, biofeedback trainees have



placebo intervention be advised that the drug is "not so strong" and that it must be "helped along" by the appropriate self-control behaviors. When these procedures are used, the individual's self-doubts (about whether he or she can contribute to the production of the effect) are circumvented, and motivation and involvement are maintained. The biofeedback placebo goes even further in that the trainee's immediate task—control of the feedback signal—is at least one step removed from control of the target process or state (e.g., blood pressure, muscle group, or state of consciousness) and is thus less likely to evoke the trainee's doubts concerning his or her competence. We would expect that alpha training would also be more effective than a procedure in which only internal attributions are available because most persons would probably not see themselves as able to induce such experiential states on their own without special training (for if they did, they would have done so already!). A person who starts out on a task that is believed to be impossible or doomed to failure is obviously less likely to succeed than one who thinks he or she has a good chance to succeed (Peek, 1977; Plotkin, Note 3). These views concerning the attribution process in alpha training have received some support in a recently completed study (Plotkin, in press) in which experiential reports from six groups were compared. All the research participants were exposed to the identical physical setting and received the same explicit suggestions of an alpha experience. They were divided into the following 8 groups: (a) contingent EEG alpha-biofeedback training (participants in this group were instructed to try to increase the volume of a feedback tone; they were told that successful performance would enhance the strength of their alpha brain waves and thereby result in the alpha experience); (b) noncontingent biofeedback (instructions were identical to those above, but the "feedback" tone was in fact a tape recording of a successful trainee's feedback) ; (c) concentration exercise (an internal-attribution-only condition; the participants' task was to use the tape-recorded tone

as a concentration object; successful concentration would lead to the alpha experience); (d) brain wave stimulation (the analog to the inactive-drug placebo; an external-at^ributiononly condition; the participants were informed that the alpha experience would be directly induced by a combination of electrical brain stimulation and computer-programmed auditory stimulation); (e) a combination of the last two groups (the participants were told that they were receiving direct brain wave stimulation, but that they must "help it along" by concentrating on the tone); and (f) self-induction (another internal-attribution-only condition, but unlike the ctmcentration condition, participants were given no induction strategy; rather, they were on their own to self-induce the alpha experience in any way they could). The results from this study indicated that persons in the first two groups (biofeedback training) reported significantly more intense alpha experiences than did those in the other four groups. Moreover, there were no differences in experiential reports between the contingent and noncontingent versions of the biofeedback condition. Individual Differences Although the results of the Plotkin (1977) study demonstrated that reported experiences during alpha training were closely related to the participants' expectations and their degree of perceived success, there were nevertheless a few highly atypical responses in each group. A few persons in the Success .groups reported no unusual experiences, or even the opposite experience to what they had been led to expect. In addition, a few persons in the Failure groups reported the suggested experiences despite our attempts to induce a perception of failure. These finding^ point to the importance of considering individual differences. Persons may have greater or lesser ability and/or disposition to self-iflduce unusual experiences or to self-induce one kind of experience over another. Moreover, persons differ in their proneness to experience sensory-deprivation effects, in their susceptibility or openness to suggestion, in their capacity to be comfortable in an experimental setting, in their disposition to follow instructions and



cooperate with the experimenter, and in many other relevant attributes. There has been very little work explicitly relating personal characteristics to the individual differences in reported experience during alpha training. A study in progress (Plotkin, Note 4) will correlate experimental reports with (a) state and trait anxiety (Spielberger, Gorsuch, & Lushene, 1970), (b) Rotter's (1966) Locus of Control Test, and (c) Shor's (1960) Personal Experience Questionnaire, which assesses the individual's proneness to naturally occurring altered-state experiences. Related to the issue of individual differences is the study by Marshall and Bentler (1976), which demonstrated that alpha trainees who are deeply relaxed during training (as measured by forehead EMG) report significantly more alpha experiences than less relaxed trainees do, even when there are no differences in alpha density between the two groups. Discussion The research and concepts reviewed here appear to provide an adequate explanation of the development of unusual experiential states during alpha training. Of particular interest is the finding that there is no special, unique, or intrinsic relation between EEG alpha levels and the likelihood or intensity of the meditative state of consciousness known as the "alpha experience." Yet, at the same time, we can understand why it once appeared to researchers who were absorbed by the idea of a direct and simple relation between states of consciousness and neurophysiology that there was such an association: As it turns out, the alpha-feedback situation appears to be as effective as any other known procedure for generating such experiences in persons who do not have special meditation training. However, researchers were evidently unsuspecting of the strength and complexity of the eight non-EEG factors outlined in Table 1. Naturally, the early biofeedback investigators assumed that it was their operant-conditioning procedures, and not a conspiratorial set of "incidental" variables, that were responsible for their exciting results. However, the research reviewed here does

more than remind us that experiential states are complexly related to a host of parameters besides EEG alpha levels. It calls into question the entire enterprise of "mapping consciousness" neurophysiologically (Hilgard, 1969; Kamiya, 1968; Peper, 1972; Stoyva & Kamiya, 1968). As Grossberg (1972) has pointed out in reference to the present context of alpha-feedback studies, physiology and experience are of distinctly different logical types, so that not only is it unsurprising that we rarely find very tight relationships between them, it is also conceptually inappropriate to speak of any empirical correlations between them as a case of "mapping" if by this term we mean that the physiological states are formally equivalent to—or are efficient causes of—states of awareness, experiences, or behavior. What is called for at this point is not additional empirical specifications of physiology/experience or physiology/behavior correlations but rather an explicit and systematic articulation of the concepts of "persons" and "behavior," and of the logical relations between behavior, experience, psychological state, and physiological states (e.g., see Ossorio, 1973, 1978). Such an articulation will allow an understanding of the significance and implications of psychophysiological correlations that goes well beyond the simplistic and misleading notions of "mapping" or efficient cause. There are several other implications of the findings reviewed here. First, although the research demonstrates that EEG alpha-biofeedback training per se is neither necessary for nor especially facilitative of the achievement of the alpha experience, the findings nevertheless add up to a very positive conclusion concerning self-regulation: The research demonstrates that we have greater abilities of self-control of experiential state than we have hitherto been willing to grant ourselves. As I concluded in an earlier article (Plotkin, 1976a),
we should not be unduly disappointed that there is no direct association between enhanced alpha and the alpha experience. The chain of research on alpha feedback, from Kamiya's . . . first paper to the present, has been valuable in showing us that, although we once thought that a box of amplifiers and filters had made it possible to induce a de-

ALPHA EXPERIENCE REVISITED sirable state of consciousness more rapidly and effectively than ever before, in fact we were really always doing it "on our own." We simply discovered once again that often people only need a certain degree of faith in their natural powers and abilities, along with an appropriate setting and simple instructions, in order to accomplish what they feel is normally beyond their potential. . . . The power to enter altered states of consciousness is a natural ability that we all can potentially tap; learning how to do this without external devices such as electronics and drugs will serve to expand our behavior potential in the widest range of circumstances, (p. 97, italics in original)


Thus, it appears that Maslow (1969), for example, was somewhat mistaken when he concluded from the early alpha studies that "it is already possible to teach people how to feel happy and serene" (p. 728). It would now seem more appropriate to say—and, incidentally, this is more in keeping with humanistic themes—that we have discovered that it has always been possible for people to allow themselves to feel happy and serene. A second related implication concerns the similarity between the alpha-feedback phenomenon and the hypnotic situation: Both are ways in which latent behavior potential can be evoked, and in a similar manner. One procedure for inducing the hypnotic state (Plotkin & Schwartz, Note 5) centers around the hypnotist's carefully timed redescriptions of behavior: The hypnotic subject's behavior is redescribed in such a way that the subject comes to see his or her own behavior as occurring "automatically" or under the "control" of the hypnotist. For example, the subject's arm may be seen as rising autonomously when the subject is, of course, the one who is actually raising it. Similarly, the biofeedback researcher gives an (unintentionally) inaccurate description of the alpha-feedback situation with the result that the trainee believes that the promised experiential state is a consequence of biofeedback-augmented alpha enhancement rather than the trainee's direct achievement (the latter being, in fact, the case). With this redescription of the trainees' behavior, the researcher has managed to circumvent the typical trainees' self-doubts about their abilities to put themselves in this state, which leaves them in a position in which they can simply go ahead and do just that

(as long as they do not see it that way at the time). In essence, the trainees are supplied with a special description of the behavior whereby they self-induce a change in consciousness so that they do not fully recognize their behavior for what it is. Inasmuch as they think that their potential effectiveness is limited to controlling the feedback tone, they do not recognize the situation ,as one in which there is, in fact, a question about their ability to self-induce the alpha experience; or if they do recognize the situation, all the evidence is stacked against their self-doubts, since they are, after all, "objectively" succeeding at the task! In sum, although biofeedback researchers have not been fully aware of it, alpha-feedback training has been a situation in which biofeedback has been used as an element in a somewhat sophisticated social-influence process that can lead to the evocation of latent powers of self-control. These conclusions should not be taken as a disparagement of biofeedback training; biofeedback does represent a valuable advance in our capacity to introduce ourselves to new realms of physiological and psychological selfcontrol. Rather, this research suggests at least two cautions or reminders for biofeedback users and researchers. First, we must distinguish between the intrinsic and the instrumental uses of biofeedback trainingi Biofeedback is used for intrinsic purposes ,when the physiology that is being controlled, is being controlled for its own sake. For example, the use of biofeedback training for the reduction of high blood pressure or for muscular reeducation is an instance of intrinsic use: If the hypertensive can use the biofeedback monitor to learn to lower his bloodj pressure, or if the cerebral-palsy victim can employ the information supplied by an EMG monitor to learn to coordinate his movements once again, then there is no question that the physiologicail control itself is valuable. On the other hand, when biofeedback is used instrumentally, we cannot be as sure that the physiological control per se will be at all useful. Biofeedback is used instrumentally when the control of some aspect of our physiology is attempted not because this control is intrinsically valuable, but because it appears to


WILLIAM B. PLOTKIN 3. Plotkin, W. B. The placebo effect, self-healing, and biofeedback: The role of faith in therapy. Manuscript submitted for publication, 1979. 4. Plotkin, W. B. Individual differences in susceptibility to placebo-induced "alpha experiences." Manuscript in preparation, 1979. 5. Plotkin, W. B., & Schwartz, W. R. A conceptualization of hypnosis: Exploring the place of anomaly and appraisal in behavior and experience. Manuscript submitted for publication, 1979.

lead to—or to accompany—some other desirable state of affairs. For example, the use of EMG biofeedback training for anxiety reduction, or the use of EEC biofeedback training for "mind control," for altered-state induction, for pain control, or as psychotherapy for neurotics or alcoholics is an instrumental use. When biofeedback is used instrumentally there is a gap, usually a categorical gap, between the physiological process that is being self-regulated and the desired behavioral or psychological outcome. In such cases we must be most careful before concluding that the control of the physiology in question has any special relevance to the desired or attained goal. The second reminder balances out the first: Biofeedback training is not merely a form of manipulation of human physiology; it is a complex social-behavioral interaction in which not merely physiology but attitudes, expectations, motivations, attention, experience, alertness, and understandings are being directly and indirectly influenced independently of any contingencies between physiology and feedback. The present article illustrates how biofeedback training can be more fully understood if it is viewed as a social-therapeutic activity with important physiological aspects, as opposed to being thought of as a strictly physiological training procedure with incidental (and perhaps annoying) social attributes. Especially when employed instrumentally, the general biofeedback framework is not merely a novel application of operant conditioning methodology but a potentially powerful context for the mobilization and activation of our latent self-control and selfhealing capacities (Plotkin, Note 3). It is in this latter role that biofeedback training may find its most fruitful applications as a therapeutic tool. Reference Notes
1. Plotkin, W. B. Biofeedback-associated disinhibition of eyes-dosed EEC alpha strength: Spontaneous or learned? Manuscript submitted for publication, 1979. 2. Glaros, A. G. Subjective reports in alpha feedback training. Paper presented at the meeting of the Biofeedback Society of America, Orlando, Florida, March 1977.

Adrian, E. D., & Mathews, B. A. C. The Berger rhythm: Potential changes from the occipital lobes in man. Brain, 1934, 57, 3SS-38S. Anand, B. K., Chhina, G. S., & Singh, B. Some aspects of electroencephalographic studies in yogis. EEC and Clinical Neurophysiology, 1961, 13, 4524S6. Beatty, J. Similar effects of feedback signals and instructional information on EEG activity. Physiology and Behavior, 1972, 9, 151-154. Berger, H. Uber das Elektrenkephalogramm des Menschen. Journal fur Psychologic und Neurologic, 1930, 40, 160-179. Brown, B. Recognition of aspects of consciousness through association with EEG alpha activity represented by a light signal. Psychophysiology, 1970, 6, 442-452. Chatrian, G. E., Magnus, M. D., Petersen, C., & Lazarte, J. S. The blocking of rolandic wicket rhythm and some central changes related to movement. EEG and Clinical Neurophysiology, 1959,

;;, 497-510.
Davison, G. C., & Valins, S. Maintenance of selfattributed and drug-attributed behavior change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1969,

;;, 25-33.
DeGood, D. E., Elkin, B., Lessin, S., & Valle, R. S. Expectancy influence on self-reported experience during alpha feedback training: Subject and situational factors. Biofeedback and Self-Regulation, 1977, 2, 183-194. Deikman, A. J. Experimental meditation. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 1963, 236, 329-343. Erickson, M. H., Rossi, E. L., & Rossi, S. Hypnotic realities: The induction of clinical hypnosis and forms of indirect suggestion. New York: Irvington, 1976. Galin, D., & Ornstein, R. Lateral specialization of cognitive mode: An EEG study. Psychophysiology, 1972, 9, 412-418. Grossberg, J. M. Brain wave feedback experiments and the concept of mental mechanisms. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 1972, J, 245-251.

ALPHA EXPERIENCE REVISITED Hardt, J. V., & Kamiya, J. Some comments on Plotkin's self-regulation of EEC alpha. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 1976, 105, 100-108. (a) Hardt, J. V., & Kamiya, J. Conflicting results in EEC alpha feedback studies: Why amplitude integration should replace percent time. Biofeedback and Self-Regulation, 1976, ;, 63-75. (b) Hart, J. Autocontrol of EEC alpha. Psychophysiology, 1968, 4, 506. (Abstract) Hilgard, E. R. Altered states of awareness. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 1969, 149, 68-79. Hunt, H. T., & Chefurka, C. M. A test of the psychedelic model of altered states of consciousness: The role of introspective sensitization in eliciting unusual subjective reports. Archives of General Psychiatry, 1976, 33, 867-876. James, W. The principles of psychology. New York: Dover, 1950. Jasper, H. H., & Penfleld, W. Electrocorticograms in man: Effects of voluntary movement on the electrical activity of the precentral gyrus. Archiv fiir Psychiatrie und Nervenkrankheiten, 1949, 1S3, 163-174. Johnson, L. C. Learned control of brain wave activity. In J. Beatty & H. Legewie (Eds.), Biofeedback and behavior. New York: Plenum Press, 1977. Kamiya, J. Conscious control of brain waves. Psychology Today, November 1968,1, 56-60. Kamiya, J. Operant control of the EEC alpha rhythm and some of its reported effects on consciousness. In C. T. Tart (Ed.), Altered states of consciousness. New York: Wiley, '1969. Kasamatsu, A., & Hirai, T. An electroencephalographic study of the Zen meditation (Zazen). In C. T. Tart (Ed.), Altered states of consciousness. New York: Wiley, 1969. Klass, D. W., & Bickford, R. G. Observations on the rolandic arceau rhythm. EEC and Clinical Neurophysiology, 1957, 9, 570. Kreitman, N., & Shaw, J. C. Experimental enhancement of alpha activity. EEC and Clinical Neurophysiology, 1965,18, 147-155. Lawrence, J. Alpha brain waves. New York: Avon, 1972. Lindsley, D. B. Attention, consciousness, sleep, and wakefulness. In J. Field (Ed.), Handbook of physiology: Section J, Neurophysiology (Vol. 1). Washington, B.C.: American Physiological Society, 1960. Lynch, J. J., & Paskewitz, D. A. On the mechanisms of the feedback control of human brain wave activity. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 1971,1S3, 205-217. Lynch, J. J., Paskewitz, D. A., & Orne, M. T. Some factors in the feedback control of human alpha rhythm. Psychosomatic Medicine, 1974, 36, 399410. Marshall, M. S., & Bentler, P. M. The effects of deep physical relaxation and low-frequency-alpha brainwaves on alpha subjective reports. Psychophysiology, 1976,13, 505-516.


Maslow, A. H. Toward a humanistic biology. American Psychologist, 1969, 24, 724-735. Morgan, A. H., MacDonald, H., & Hilgfird, E. R. EEC alpha: Lateral asymmetry related to task and hypnotizability. Psychophysiology, 1974, 11, 275-282. Mulholland, T. B. Feedback electroencephalography. Activas Nervosa Superior, 1968,10, 410-438. Mulholland, T. B. Occipital alpha revisited. Psychological Bulletin, 1972, 3, 176-182. Mulholland, T. B. Objective EEC methods for studying covert shifts of visual attention. In F. J. McGuigan & R. A. Schoonover (Eds.), The psychophysiology of thinking; Studies of covert processes. New York: Academic Press, 1973. Mulholland, T. B., & Peper, E. Occipital alpha and accommodative vergence, pursuit tracking, and fast eye movements. Psychophysiology, 1971,\8, 556-575. Naranjo, C., & Ornstein, R. On the psychology of meditation. New York: Viking, 1971. Nideffer, R. M. Alpha and the development of human potential. In D. Shapiro et al. (Eds.), Biofeedback and self-control, 1972. Chicago: AldineAtherton, 1973. Nowlis, D. P., & Kamiya, J. The control!of electroencephalographic alpha rhythms through auditory feedback and the associated mental activity. Psychophysiology, 1970, 6, 476-484. Orne, M. T. On the social psychology of the psychological experiment: With particular reference to demand characteristics and their implications. American Psychologist, 1962,17, 776-783. Orne, M. T., & Paskewitz, D. A. Aversivei situational effects on alpha feedback training. Science, 1974, 186, 458-460. Ossorio, P. G. Never smile at a crocodile. Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior, 1973, 3, »21-140. Ossorio, P. G. What actually happens: The representation of real world phenomena. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1978. Paskewitz, D. A. EEC alpha activity aiid its relationship to altered states of consciousness. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences1, 1977, 296, 154-161. Paskewitz, D. A., Lynch, J. J., Orne, M. T., & Costello, J. The feedback control of alpha activity: Conditioning or disinhibition ? Psychophysiology, 1970, 6, 637-638. (Abstract) Peek, C. J. A critical look at the theory of placebo. Biofeedback and Self-Regulation, 1977, \2, 327-335. Peper, E. Reduction of efferent motor commands during alpha feedback as a facilitator of PEG alpha and a precondition for changes in consciousness. Kybernetic, 1971, 9, 226-231. Peper, E. Localized EEG alpha feedback training: A possible technique for mapping subjective, conscious, and behavioral experiences. Kybernetic, 1972,11, 166-169. Plotkin, W. B. On the self-regulation of the occipital alpha rhythm: Control strategies, states of consciousness, and the role of physiological feedback. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 1976, 105, 66-69. (a)


WILLIAM B. PLOTKIN Shor, R. E. Naturally occurring "hypnotic-like" experiences in the normal college population. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 1960, 8, 151-163. Spearman, C. The nature of intelligence and the principles of cognition. London: Macmillan, 1923. Spielberger, C. D., Gorsuch, R. L., & Lushene, R. E. Manual for the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (Self-Evaluation Questionnaire). Palo Alto, Calif.: Consulting Psychologists Press, 1970. Stoyva, J., & Kamiya, J. Electrophysiologteal studies of dreaming as the prototype of a new strategy in the study of consciousness. Psychological Review, 1968, 75, 192-205. Strayer, F., Scott, W. B., & Bakan, P. A re-examination of alpha feedback training: Operant conditioning or perceptual differentiation? Canadian Journal of Psychology, 1973, 27, 247-253. Stroebel, C. F., & Glueck, B. C. Biofeedback treatment in medicine and psychiatry: An ultimate placebo? In L. Birk (Ed.), Biofeedback; Behavioral Medicine. New York: Grune & Stratton, 1973. Titchener, E. B. Description vs. statement of meaning. American Journal of Psychology, 1912, 23, 165-182. Travis, T. A., Kondo, C. Y., & Knott, J. R. Subjective aspects of alpha enhancement. British Journal of Psychiatry, 1975,127, 122-126. Valins, S., & Nisbett, R. E. Attribution processes in the development and treatment of emotional disorder. In E. E. Jones et al. (Eds.), Attribution; Perceiving the causes of behavior. Morristown, N.J.: General Learning Press, 1972. Valle, R. S., & Levine, J. M. Expectation effects in alpha wave control. Psychophysiology, 1975, 12, 306-309. Wallace, R. K. Physiological effects of transcendental meditation. Science, 1970,167, 1751-1754. Walsh, D. H. Interactive effects of alpha feedback and instructional set on subjective state. Psychophysiology, 1974, 11, 428-435. Wertheim, A. H. Oculomotor control and occipital alpha activity: A review and a hypothesis. Ada Psychologica, 1974, 38, 235-256. Zubeck, J. P. (Ed.). Sensory deprivation: Fifteen years of research. New York: Appleton-CenturyCrofts, 1969.

Plotkin, W. B. Appraising the ephemeral "alpha phenomenon": A reply to Hardt and Kamiya. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 1976, JOS, 109-121. (b) Plotkin, W. B. On the social psychology of experiential states associated with EEC alpha biofeedback training. In J. Beatty & H. Legewie (Eds.), Biofeedback and behavior. New York: Plenum Press, 1977. Plotkin, W. B. Long-term eyes-closed alpha-enhancement training: Effects on alpha amplitudes and on experiential state. Psychophysiology, 1978, 15, 4052. Plotkin, W. B. The role of attributions of responsibility in the facilitation of unusual experiential states during EEC alpha training: An analysis of the biofeedback-placebo effect. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, in press. Plotkin, W. B., & Cohen, R. Occipital alpha and the attributes of the "alpha experience." Psychophysiology, 1976, 13, 16-21. Plotkin, W. B., Mazer, C., & Loewy, D. Alpha enhancement and the likelihood of an alpha experience. Psychophysiology, 1976, 13, 466-471. Regestein, Q. R., Pegram, V., Cook, B., & Bradley, D. Alpha rhythm percentage maintained during 4- and 12-hour feedback periods. In N. E. Miller et al. (Eds.), Biofeedback and self-control, 1973. Chicago: Aldine-Atherton, 1974. Rotter, J. B. Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological Monographs, 1966, 80(1, Whole No. 609). Sacks, B., Fenwick, P. B. C., Marks, I., Fenton, G. W., & Hebden, A. An investigation of the phenomenon of autocontrol of the alpha rhythm and possible associated feeling states using visual feedback. EEC and Clinical N europhysiology, 1972, 32, 461. Sarbin, T. R. Contextualism: A world view for modern psychology. In A. Landfield (Ed.), Nebraska Symposium on Motivation (Vol. 24). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1977. Schwartz, G. E., Davidson, R. J., & Pugash, E. Voluntary control of patterns of EEC parietal asymmetry: Cognitive concomitants. Psychophysiology, 1976,13, 498-S04. Shapiro, D. Biofeedback and the regulation of complex psychological processes. In J. Beatty & H. Legewie (Eds.), Biofeedback and behavior. New York: Plenum Press, 1977.

Received May 30, 1978 •

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful