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Journal of Abnormal Psychology

1980, Vol. 89, No. 5, 603-616

Attempting to Breach Posthypnotic Amnesia
John F. Kihlstrom,
Frederick J. Evans, Emily Carota Orne, and Martin T. Orne
The Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital and University of Pennsylvania

Traditionally, posthypnotic amnesia has been construed as a subjectively
compelling deficit in memory retrieval. Alternatively, it may represent a moti-
vated failure to utilize appropriate retrieval cues, lack of effort in recall, active
suppression of memory, or unwillingness to verbalize the critical material. In an
effort to test the alternative hypothesis of amnesia, 488 subjects were presented
with four kinds of instructions designed to overcome the effects of suggested
posthypnotic amnesia. The instructions particularly affected subjects of low and
moderate hypnotizability who failed the criterion for amnesia. For those of
moderate and high hypnotizability who met the criterion for amnesia, however,
explicit requests for temporal organization, exhortations to maximize recall,
and demands for honesty in reporting produced no greater effect on memory
than did a simple retest. These results place some boundaries on both the tradi-
tional and alternative views of posthypnotic amnesia and invite further explora-
tion of both cognitive and contextual models of the phenomenon.

Following suggestions of amnesia and the memories seem to flood back into awareness,
termination of hypnosis, many subjects and the subjects who showed such difficulty
appear unable to remember some or all of in remembering just a few moments before
the events that transpired while they were now remember the events of hypnosis
hypnotized. Later, after the experimenter vividly and clearly. The reversibility of
has administered a prearranged cue, these amnesia indicates that this apparent difficulty
in remembering does not stem from a loss of
This report is based on a doctoral dissertation com- memories from storage. Although there is
pleted at the University of Pennsylvania by the general agreement that the memories covered
first author (Kihlstrom, 1975). The research was con-
ducted at the Unit for Experimental Psychiatry, The by the amnesia remain available in the
Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital, and was supported cognitive system, controversy persists con-
in part by Grant MH-19156 from the National Institute cerning the mechanisms involved in the
of Mental Health, U. S. Public Health Service, and subject's failure to report them to the
in part by a grant from the Institute of Experimental
Psychiatry. At the time, the first author was supported
experimenter.
in part by a Dissertation Year Fellowship from the Posthypnotic amnesia has usually been
University of Pennsylvania. Subsequent data analyses conceptualized as a subjectively compelling,
and preparation of this report were supported in part temporary inability of the subject to remem-
by Grants MH-19156 and MH-29951 from the National ber certain events and experiences (Bowers,
Institute of Mental Health.
We wish to thank our colleagues for their support 1966; Cooper, 1979; Hilgard, 1965, 1966;
during the experiment and their comments during the Kihlstrom, 1977, 1978; Orne, 1966; Weit-
preparation of this article: Harvey D. Cohen, Mary R. zenhoffer, 1953), This conceptual approach
Cook, David F. Dinges, Charles Graham, Betsy E.
Lawrence, Pamela A. Markowsky, Michael Parrish,
Helen M. Pettinati, Susan Jo Russell, Paul Rozin, Frederick J. Evans is now at the Carrier Foundation and
Anthony Van Campen, William M. Waid, Stuart K. College of Dentistry and Medicine of New Jersey,
Wilson, and Julius Wishner. Particular appreciation is Rutgers Medical School.
extended to Nancy Bauer, Mary Anne Iselin, Martin Requests for reprints should be sent to John F.
Korn, Rosemary McNicholl, Thomas Markus, Lani Kihlstrom, who is now at the Department of Psychol-
Pyles, Joanne Rosellini, and Mae Weglarski, without ogy, University of Wisconsin, W. J. Brogden Psychol-
whose logistical help the experiment could not have ogy Building, 1202 West Johnson Street, Madison,
been performed. Wisconsin 53706.

Copyright 1980 by the American Psychological Association, Inc. 002I-843X/80/8905-0603$00.75

603
604 KIHLSTROM, EVANS, ORNE, AND ORNE

had led to experiments designed to explore with their actual response to amnesia sug-
the processes underlying the disruption in gestions (Ashford & Hammer, 1978; Shor,
memory function: repression (denies, 1971), although there may be some small
1964), selective recall (Coe, Baugher, relation to outcome when these expectations
Krimm, & Smith, 1976; Hilgard & Hommel, are manipulated by the investigator (Young
1961; O'Connell, 1966; Pettinati & Evans, & Cooper, 1972).
1978), disorganized retrieval (Evans & Kihl- More direct evidence on the compliance
strom, 1973; Kihlstrom & Evans, 1979; hypothesis is provided by studies that
Spanos & Bodorik, 1977), and the like. explore the strategies subjects use to pro-
Those theorists who view hypnosis from a duce amnesia or assess the effects of chang-
social-psychological perspective, however, ing the context in which amnesia is evalu-
although agreeing that an occasional subject ated. In an experiment by Spanos and
may experience an actual disruption in Bodorik (1977), slightly more than half of the
memory, emphasize the motivated subject's unselected subjects tested reported that they
neglect of organizational strategies that actively tried to forget the critical material
would be helpful in retrieving the material, after receiving amnesia suggestions—typi-
active suppression of memories, willful lack cally by means of suppression of recall and
of effort in recall, or unwillingness to verbal- response withholding. These strategies were
ize material that is already remembered successful for a minority of the subjects
(Barber, 1969; Barber, Spanos, & Chaves, involved, in that they led to an apparent
1974; Coe, 1978; Sarbin & Coe, 1972, 1979). partial or complete recall failure. However,
This position has led to experiments com- the vast majority showed unimpaired recall
paring the effects of hypnotic and task-moti- despite their use of strategies. Significantly,
vation conditions on amnesia (Barber & an equivalent proportion of the remaining
Calverley, 1966), analyses of subjects' strat- subjects met the criterion for partial or full
egies in producing amnesia (Spanos & amnesia despite the fact that they reported
Bodorik, 1977; Spanos & Ham, 1973), that they had not actively tried to forget the
demonstrations that memory traces are not material. In addition, a study by Bowers
abolished in posthypnotic amnesia (Coe, (1966) examined the effects of changing
Basden, Basden, & Graham, 1976), and the context on reports of amnesia. Hypnotized
like. and simulating subjects were given an
There is already a fair amount of evidence amnesia suggestion, interviewed, and then
available that pertains indirectly to the con- dismissed without cancelling the amnesia.
textual hypothesis (see more complete When seen by another experimenter under
reviews by Coe, 1978; Kihlstrom, 1977, conditions of a strong honesty demand, all
1978; Sarbin & Coe, 1979). For example, of the simulators but only half of the hyp-
hypnotized subjects responding to amnesia notized subjects showed a release of the
suggestions show different patterns of per- amnesia.
formance on memory tests compared to The hypothesis-testing framework that
those who have been instructed to simulate dominates modern experimental psychology
hypnosis and amnesia (Barber & Calverley, unfortunately compels investigators to dis-
1966; Evans, 1979; Johnson, Maher, & cuss competing approaches to a phenome-
Barber, 1972; Spanos, Radtke-Bodorik, & non in "either-or" terms. Nevertheless, it
Stam, 1980; Williamsen, Johnson, & Erik- seems likely that both the traditional and
sen, 1965). In a similar vein, task-motiva- alternative viewpoints on posthypnotic
tional instructions sometimes (Barber & amnesia are partly correct, in that each
Calverley, 1966) but not always (Spanos, applies to a subset of amnesic subjects.
Radtke-Bodorik, & Shabinsky, 1980; Certainly some subjects, complying with the
Bodorik & Spanos, Note 1) produce levels demands implicit or explicit in the social
of amnesia equivalent to those observed in context in which the hypnotic interaction
hypnotized subjects. Furthermore, the pre- takes place, behave in accordance with
existing expectations of subjects concerning amnesia suggestions even though they do
their posthypnotic memory are uncorrelated not experience any actual disruption in
BREACHING AMNESIA 605

memory. Other subjects, however, appear cerning the amnesia item of this scale. Second, the
to be surprised by their inability to recall, use of a tape-recorded procedure permitted the subjects
in all conditions to be treated alike before and after
find their amnesia subjectively compelling, the interpolated amnesia test, and group testing ensured
and continue to manifest amnesia despite that hypnotizable and insusceptible subjects would be
changing conditions. Because two very dif- treated similarly in all phases of the experiment.
ferent mechanisms appear to be implicated, Recruitment of subjects with no prior experience of
the principal problem for research at this hypnosis reduced the possibility of artifacts stemming
from self-selection and the inadvertent shaping of
stage is to identify the boundary conditions behavior and experience by previous hypnotists.
for each hypothesis. The present experiment
sought to provide some information along Subjects
these lines by presenting amnesic subjects
with various special instructions concerning A total of 488 male and female college students
recruited from the Philadelphia area volunteered for a
the manner in which they should recall the psychological experiment involving the assessment of
events and experiences of hypnosis. The susceptibility to hypnosis. The subjects were run in
instructions were of three types, each groups ranging in size from 9 to 33 persons and were
reflecting a different strategy by which a paid $7 for a single experimental session lasting approx-
subject might actively comply with amnesia imately 3 hours. Following completion of a number of
questionnaires, the subjects received one of four modi-
suggestions: neglecting to organize retrieval, fied versions of the HGSHSIA.
failing to exert enough effort during the
memory tests, or deliberately withholding Procedure
information from the experimenter. In brief,
for three groups explicit instructions The HGSHS:A is a standardized procedure consisting
of an induction of hypnosis accompanied by suggestions
designed to counteract these strategies were for 12 discrete representative hypnotic experiences.
inserted between an initial test of posthyp- The final item in the scale is a suggestion of posthyp-
notic amnesia and a retest; the effects of notic amnesia for the experiences that occurred during
these instructions were compared to those hypnosis (a total of 9 out of the 12 items)1 and the estab-
observed in a fourth group of subjects, lishment of a cue to reverse the amnesia:
for whom the original recall test was simply You probably will have the impression that you have
repeated without any embellishment. slept because you will have difficulty in remembering
Because some improvement in recall might all the things I have told you and all the things you did
or felt. In fact, you will find it to be so much of an
be expected on a retest under any circum- effort to recall any of these things that you will have
stances, this last group represented a control no wish to do so. It will be much easier simply to
against which any changes in recall due to forget everything until I tell you that you can remem-
the specific instructions in the other condi- ber. You will remember nothing of what has
happened until I say to you: "Now you can remem-
tions could be compared. ber everything!" You will not remember anything
until then, (from Shor & Orne, 1962, p. 11)
Method
Amnesia is objectively defined by the number of scale
This experiment was conducted in the context of an items recalled posthypnotically. According to the
administration to naive subjects of a standardized, tape- standardized scoring criterion, those subjects who
recorded hypnotic procedure, the Harvard Group Scale recall no more than three of the nine critical items on
of Hypnotic Susceptibility, Form A (HGSHS:A; Shor & the initial test of posthypnotic memory are counted as
Orne, 1962, 1963). Although HOSHSIA is more suitable passing the criterion for amnesia. No modifications
as a preliminary screening device than as a vehicle for were made to the conventional, standardized HGSHS:A
formal experiments, it was employed for two reasons. procedure until after the usual test for posthypnotic
First, the proportion of unselected subjects meeting the amnesia was carried out.
standardized criterion for posthypnotic amnesia is Written reports of posthypnotic memory were col-
somewhat higher, and the correlation between amnesia lected in a series of three recall tests. The first of these
and general hypnotic susceptibility is somewhat lower, was the conventional test of initial amnesia. For this
than is the case in the individual standardized proce- study, HGSHS:A was then extended by the addition of a
dures such as the Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility second recall test, which was preceded by one of four
Scale, Forms A, B, and C (Weitzenhoffer & Hilgard,
1959, 1962). This suggests that the response to the
1
amnesia suggestion may be inflated by factors such as Three items are not counted in the standard
compliance and lack of effort that are central to the scoring of amnesia: a test of waking suggestibility, eye
social-psychological account of posthypnotic amnesia. closure during the induction of hypnosis, and the
Moreover, massive normative data is available con- amnesia suggestion itself.
606 KIHLSTROM, EVANS, ORNE, AND ORNE

kinds of special instructions.2 This second test was 2. Cue(« = 139). In this group, subjects were admin-
administered during amnesia, before the reversibility istered the second recall test with accompanying
cue was given. The special instructions constituted the instructions to list the items that they could remember
experimental manipulation and were designed to test in the exact order in which they occurred during the
the integrity of the verbal report of memory recall. hypnotic procedure:
Finally, the cue was given to reverse the amnesia, and
recall was tested again. Usually when we try to remember things we have
Following the three tests of posthypnotic memory, done, we can also remember the exact order in time
the subjects rated their behavioral responses to the in which they occurred. This time, it is extremely
remaining 11 items of HGSHS:A according to objective important that you list the things that happened while
behavioral criteria. These retrospective self-ratings you were hypnotized in the exact order in which they
have been shown to correlate highly with those made by occurred.
external observers (Bentler & Hilgard, 1963; Shor & If the amnesic subject's memory failure reflects a
Orne, 1963; see also O'Connell, 1964). The experi- neglect of temporal cues and related organizational
menter who introduced the HOSHS:A tape to the sub- strategies, the reminder concerning temporal sequence
jects was blind to the particular version of the scale should facilitate recall (for a further discussion of this
being administered in any given session. issue, see Kihlstrom & Evans, 1979).
3. Challenge (n = 118). Subjects in this condition
were instructed to exert extra effort in recalling material
Tests of Posthypnotic Recall from memory:
The method of conducting each of the several tests Usually when we try to remember things we have
of posthypnotic recall is described in the text that fol- done, if we make a second effort we can remember
lows (italicized words and phrases received special things that we could not remember before. This time,
emphasis in the recorded script). For all three memory it is extremely important that you try even harder
tests, the subjects wrote out their memory reports in than before to list all of the things that happened
appropriately modified versions of the standard while you were hypnotized.
HOSHS:A response booklet. Each of the recall test If the memory impairment in amnesia results from the
pages was headed by a brief summary of the corre- subject's neglect of memories that are actually accessi-
sponding tape-recorded script. A period of 3 min was
ble, these instructions should result in an improvement
allotted for each of the three tests of posthypnotic in recall.
memory. 4. Honesty (n = 116). This group of subjects was
Test I (during amnesia). After termination of urged not to voluntarily withhold any experiences that
hypnosis and testing of another posthypnotic sugges-
they actually remembered:
tion, all 488 subjects were administered the same stand-
ardized test of posthypnotic amnesia: There is a tendency for subjects to try to be "helpful''
by not writing down all of the things that they actually
Now . . . please write down briefly in your own remember. However, this is a scientific experiment
words a list of the things that happened since you and it is vital that you really put down everything that
began looking at the target. You should not go into you can remember about what has happened while
much detail here on the particular ways in which you you were hypnotized.
responded, but please try to mention all of the differ-
ent things that you were asked to do.(from Shor & If the subject remembers the critical material during the
Orne, 1962, p. 11) amnesia test but deliberately withholds it from the
experimenter, these instructions should yield a marked
The purpose of Test 1 was to establish each subject's increment in recall (Bowers, 1967).
initial level of response to the amnesia suggestion under
standard conditions. Test 3 (after amnesia). Finally, the suggestion for
Test 2 (also during amnesia). Immediately follow- posthypnotic amnesia was cancelled by means of the
ing the completion of the initial assessment of amnesia, prearranged reversibility cue, and all 488 subjects,
but before the amnesia suggestion was lifted by the pre- regardless of previous experimental manipulation, were
arranged reversibility cue, the second test of memory administered the same test of postamnesia recall:
was inserted. The exact nature of this second test All right, now listen carefully to my words. Now you
depended on the experimental condition to which each can remember everything. Please . . . write down
group of subjects had been randomly assigned. a list of everything you now remember that happened
1. Retest (n = 115). In this condition subjects were since you began looking at the target.
administered a second memory test, but were given no
additional instructions regarding the manner of recall: This provided a test of recovery of memory after post-
"We would like you to write down again a list of the hypnotic amnesia. In the conventional HOSHS:A proce-
things that happened while you were hypnotized." Data
from this group provided an indication of any change in
2
recall that might occur under ordinary retest condi- The tape recording used in this study was the
tions, thereby yielding a baseline against which the standard version recorded by L. Dumas under the
effects of the instructions given to the other groups supervision of D. N. O'Connell in 1962. The modified
could be compared. amnesia tests were recorded by T. Markus in 1974.
BREACHING AMNESIA 607

dure, reversibility is assessed by asking the subjects to terms of sample parameters. For all analyses
report only those newly remembered items that they reported in the remainder of this article, the
did not recall on the previous amnesia test. To ensure
comparability of the various tests of posthypnotic recall HGSHS;A scores were corrected by elimi-
employed in this study, however, the subjects were nating the amnesia item itself from consider-
asked to report all of the suggestions that they could ation, yielding an 11-point scale. On the
remember. basis of these corrected scores, the subjects
were classified as low (0-4), medium (5-7),
Results or high (8-11) in hypnotic susceptibility.
The mean total HGSHSIA scale score for Initial Amnesia Response
the combined sample of 488 subjects was
7.09 (SD = 2.56). The average number of The experimental manipulation was not
items recalled on Test 1 (the initial amnesia introduced into the procedure until after
test) was 3.53 (SD = 2.26); a total of 216 Test 1, when the initial assessment of
subjects (44.3%) met the standardized cri- amnesia had been completed. For this rea-
terion for amnesia by recalling three or fewer son the various groups were combined for
items on that test. Table 1 shows these para- an analysis of data gathered from the initial
metric data separately for each of the four recall test. The mean number of items
treatment groups. There were no significant recalled on Test 1 was 3.90 (SD = 2.33)for
group differences in either the mean the combined group of 90 insusceptible sub-
HGSHSIA scale score, F(3, 484) = .67; the jects, 3.77 (SD = 2.18) for the 209 medium-
number of items recalled on Test 1, ,F(3, hypnotizable subjects, and 3.08 (SD = 2.24)
484) = 1.55, ns; or the proportion of sub- for the 189 subjects of high hypnotizability.
jects passing the amnesia item according to Analysis of variance revealed significant
the standard criterion, x2(3) = 4.08, ns. In group differences, F(2, 485) = 6.16, p <
general these figures are comparable to pub- .005, indicating, as expected, that hypnotiz-
lished norms (e.g., Shor & Orne, 1963, Coe, able subjects were more responsive to the
1964). Thus the random assignment of sub- amnesia suggestion than were insusceptible
ject groups to conditions was successful, in subjects. The difference in initial recall

Table 1
HGSHS.-A Sample Parameters for Four Instructional Conditions
Instructions

Variable Retest Cue Challenge Honesty
Total n 115 139 118 116
3
HGSHS:A scale score
M 6.94 7.16 7.34 6.95
SD 2.73 2.42 2.54 2.55
Initial amnesia response1"
M 3.60 3.78 3.19 3.49
SD 2.16 2.43 2.45 2.13
Size of subgroups'
High hypnotizability 45 56 46 42
(amnesic, nonamnesic) (22, 23) (27, 29) (28, 18) (25, 17)
Medium hypnotizability 42 60 54 53
(amnesic, nonamnesic) (28, 15) (22, 38) (26, 28) (18, 35)
Low hypnotizability 28 23 18 21
(amnesic, nonamnesic) (10, 18) (7, 16) (7, 11) (9, 12)
Note,
a
HGSHS:A = Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility, Form A.
Uncorrected HGSHS:A score. b On Test 1. c Corrected HGSHS:A score: low (0-4), medium (5-7), high (8-11);
recall on Test 1: amnesic (0-3), nonamnesic (4-9).
608 KIHLSTROM, EVANS, ORNE, AND ORNE

g
s (A) HIGH HYPNOTIZABLE
PASSING AMNESIA
<B> HIGH HYPNOTIZABLE
FAILING AMNESIA
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
RETEST CUE CHALLENGE HONESTY
0 RETEST CUE CHALLENGE HONESTY

^1 L ' n,L^ \ I I ' 1 1 1 I I I I I I I I I 1 I I

9
a
UJ <C> MEDIUM HYPNOTIZABLE CD) MEDIUM HYPNOTIZABLE
8
PASSING AMNESIA FAILING AMNESIA

u 7
UJ
Qi 6
cn
s: 5
UJ
4
LL 3
o
a: 2
ui
CD
1
0 RETEtT CUE CHALLENGE HONESTY RETEST CUE CHALLENGE HONESTY

g
8 <E) LOW HYPNOTIZABLE CF> LOW HYPNOTIZABLE
PASSING AMNESIA FAILING AMNESIA
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0 RETEST CUE CHALLENGE HONESTY MTCIT CUC CHALLENGE HONtlTY

I I I 1—' ' I L I i i i
1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 1 1 2 1 1 2 3 1 2 3

CONDITION AND TEST
BREACHING AMNESIA 609

between low- and medium-hypnotizable with one between-subjects factor (instruc-
subjects was not significant, /(297) = .48, tional conditions) and one within-subjects
whereas the recall of the high-hypnotizable factor (recall tests) were performed on each
subjects differed significantly from that of of the six subgroups so formed. Because the
both the mediums, f(396) = 3.04, p < .005, independent and dependent variables were
and the lows, ?(277) = 2.85, p < .005. no longer confounded, these ANOVAS were
applied to recall level rather than change
Impact of Special Instructions on scores. In each of the six groups, the effect
Posthypnotic Recall of repeated tests was significant (p <j.005),
indicating that recall improved across the
If the alternative contextual hypothesis of trials. There was a significant main effect of
posthypnotic amnesia is generally correct, instructional condition in the case of the
the various instructions employed in this medium-hypnotizable, nonamnesic sub-
experiment would be expected to differ- jects, F(3, 124) = 3.12,p < .05, and a simi-
entially affect the memory reports of the lar trend among the low-hypnotizable
subjects. Figure 1 presents the average recall amnesic subjects, F(3, 29) = 2.42, p < .10.
on each of the three tests of posthypnotic Finally, there was a trend toward an interac-
memory for the subjects in this experiment tion between conditions and tests in the high-
classified by level of hypnotizability (low, hypnotizable, nonamnesic subjects, F(6,
medium, or high), level of initial amnesia 166) = 1.65, p < .15, and substantially
(pass or fail the standard criterion on Test 1), weaker trends (p < .30) in the medium-
and instructional condition (retest, cue, hypnotizable, nonamnesic subjects and in
challenge, or honesty). To avoid confound- the amnesic and nonamnesic subjects of low
ing of the dependent variable of recall level hypnotizability; in all other cases, p > .40.
with the independent variable of initial In sum, there were no effects of instruc-
amnesia status, the data from the three recall tional conditions observed in the subjects of
tests were converted to change scores repre- high and medium hypnotizability who met
senting the difference between Test 1 and the criterion for initial posthypnotic
Test 2 (i.e., during amnesia) and between amnesia; such effects were observed to
Test 2 and Test 3 (i.e., after amnesia was some degree in the other groups, however.
cancelled). A 3 x 2 x 4 x 2 mixed-design All main effect and interaction trends
analysis of variance (ANOVA) with three involving the instructional conditions factor
between-subjects factors (hypnotizability, were pursued in detail, as were effects appar-
initial amnesia, and instructional conditions) ent to the naked eye that were not indicated
and one within-subjects factor (change statistically. In this way no such effect,
scores) showed a nonsignificant main effect however weak, would be obscured by the
of instructional condition, F(3,464) = 1.93, overall analysis of variance.
p < .15, but the impact of the different Groups yielding no evidence of treatment
instructions was more apparent in a signifi- effect. A total of 102 of the 189 subjects
cant interaction between instructions, level (54.0%) scoring in the high range of hypno-
of hypnotizability, and level of initial tizability passed the standardized criterion
amnesia, F(6, 464) = 2.24, p < .05. Thus for initial posthypnotic amnesia, recalling
the instructions had different effects on the no more than three items on Test 1 (Figure 1,
various subject groups. Panel A). Separate one-way analyses of
To explore these effects further, the sub- variance evaluated the changes in recall
jects were jointly classified in terms of hyp- observed from Test 1 to Test 2 (during
notizability and initial amnesia response, amnesia with the various interpolated
and separate 4 x 3 mixed-design ANOVAS instructions) and from Test 2 to Test 3 (after

Figure 1. Mean number of items recalled on three tests of posthypnotic recall. (Maximum recall is 9
items. Tests 1 and 2 occurred during suggested amnesia, Test 2 preceded by special instructions. Test 3
occurred after the reversibility cue was given to lift the amnesia. See Table 1 for subgroup ns.)
610 KIHLSTROM, EVANS, ORNE, AND ORNE

amnesia was cancelled by the prearranged D). During amnesia there was a trend toward
reversibility cue). There was a substantial an effect of instructional condition, F(3,
improvement in memory during posthyp- 124) = 1.67, p < .20, with the honesty
notic amnesia but no effect of the instruc- group showing the least improvement,
tional conditions, F(3, 98) = .10. A further although Scheffe's test showed no signifi-
substantial improvement was observed after cant group differences. There was, however,
amnesia was cancelled; thus, the significant no effect of instructions on the recovery of
increments in recall observed on Test 2 were memory after amnesia, F(3, 124) = .82.
not sufficient to abolish the effects of the A surprisingly large number of insuscep-
amnesia suggestion. Although there was tible subjects (33 of 90, or 36.7%) met the
some trend toward an effect of instructional standardized criterion for initial amnesia
condition on the extent of recovery after (Figure 1, Panel E). These subjects have
amnesia, F(3, 98) = 1.59, p < .20, Scheffe's been called pseudoamnesic by Kihlstrom and
test revealed no significant group differ- Evans (1977), because they typically show
ences. no evidence indicating recovery of memory
Compared to the high-scoring group, a after the amnesia suggestion has been can-
somewhat smaller portion of the subjects celled. During amnesia there was a trend
showing HGSHS;A scores in the medium toward an effect of instructions, F(3, 29) =
range passed the amnesia item, 81 out of 209 1.99, p < .20, with the challenge group
(38.8%). The results for this group are pre- recalling the least, although no group com-
sented in Figure 1, Panel C. These subjects parison reached significance by Scheffe's
repeated the pattern found in the hypnotiz- test. Although the retest and honesty groups
able subjects who passed the amnesia item, showed more recovery after amnesia than
showing a substantial improvement in recall the cue and challenge groups, the effect was
during the time that the amnesia suggestion not significant, F(3, 29) = .42.
was in effect and a further improvement after The remaining 57 insusceptible subjects
it was lifted. The various instructional con- did not meet the standardized criterion for
ditions, however, seemed to have no effect amnesia (Figure 1, Panel F). Nevertheless,
on these changes, both Fs(3, 77) < 1. given repeated tests, these subjects did typi-
Groups yielding evidence of treatment cally show some improvement in recall.
effect. The remaining 87 hypnotizable There were no group differences in the
subjects failed the criterion for amnesia extent of improvement shown during
(Figure 1, Panel B). Although the subjects in amnesia, F(3, 53) = .87. There was such a
the retest condition showed by far the least trend after amnesia was cancelled, however,
increment in recall during amnesia, the F(3,53) = 2.23,p < .10, with the challenge
effect of instructions did not prove signifi- group showing the largest increment and the
cant, F(3, 83) = .92. The cue, challenge, honesty group actually showing a decrement
and honesty groups showed the least (group comparison, p < .10, by Scheffe's
recovery after amnesia; although the overall test).
effect of instructions on recovery was not
significant, F(3, 83) = 2.45, p < .10, Detailed Analysis of Amnesic Subjects
Scheffe's test showed that the recovery
observed in the challenge and honesty Of particular interest in this experiment
groups was significantly different from that was the performance of those subjects of
observed in the retest controls (p < .05). In high and moderate hypnotizability who met
contrast to their more amnesic counterparts, the standardized criterion for posthypnotic
then, the posthypnotic recall of hypnotiz- amnesia. These are the subjects who are
able nonamnesic subjects seemed to be usually included in formal experiments on
affected to some degree by the instructional amnesia, whereas insusceptible subjects
context in which the tests took place. who happen to meet the criterion for
The remaining 128 medium-hypnotizable amnesia are usually considered pseudo-
subjects also failed amnesia (Figure 1, Panel amnesic. Because these hypnotized, am-
BREACHING AMNESIA 611

nesic subjects seemed to be unaffected showing a breakdown of amnesia on Test 2
by the different situational demands did not differ among the treatment condi-
imposed in the experiment, a closer analysis tions—retest, 46.7%; cue, 45.4%; chal-
of the results was indicated. lenge, 46.1%; honesty, 55.6%; x2(3) = .51.
High hypnotizability. Slightly more than In contrast to the results obtained with their
half of the highly hypnotizable subjects (55, highly hypotizable counterparts, analysis of
or 53.9%) maintained amnesia on1 Test 2, variance of reversibility snowed a nonsig-
continuing to recall no more than three items nificant trend, F(l, 35) = 2.15, p < .20;
despite attempts to breach the amnesia by there was still no effect of instructions, how-
retesting and/or special instructions. An ever, F(3, 35) = ,27. For the moderately
analysis of variance of the difference in hypnotizable subjects who passed the crite-
recall between Test 2 (during amnesia) and rion for amnesia on Test 1 but failed it on
Test 3 (after amnesia) showed a significant Test 2, the increment in recall was sufficient
change across trials, F(l, 51) = 88.45, p < to abolish the amnesia almost entirely.
.001, but no effect of instructional condition, Low hypnotizability. As noted earlier,
F(3,51) = \.\6,ns. The significant recovery 33 subjects of low hypnotizability neverthe-
of memory after administration of the less met the standard criterion for initial
reversibility cue indicates that the apparent posthypnotic amnesia. In contrast to the
maintenance of the amnesia during the two other amnesic groups, somewhat less than
tests of amnesia was not an artifact of ordi- half of these subjects (14, or 42.4%) con-
nary forgetting. tinued to meet the criterion for amnesia on
The remaining 47 highly hypnotizable Test 2. More important, the proportions of
subjects, however, recalled enough new subjects showing a breakdown of amnesia
material on Test 2 that they no longer met varied considerably from one treatment
the standardized criterion for amnesia. The condition to another—retest, 40%; cue,
proportion of subjects showing a breakdown 100%; challenge, 29%; honesty, 44%;
of amnesia did not differ from one treatment X2(3) =-8.23,p < .05. Within the subgroups
condition to another—retest, 40.9%; cue, maintaining or breaching amnesia, compari-
40.7%; challenge, 50.0%; honesty, 52.0%; son of the recovery of memory after admin-
X2(3) = 1.07, ns. Analysis of variance of the istration of the reversibility cue shown by
change scores again revealed a significant the various treatment conditions was pre-
recovery of memory, F(l, 43) = 29.70, p < cluded by the extremely small cell fre-
.001, but no effect of instructions, F(3,43) = quencies involved. The significant effect of
1.20, ns. Thus the substantial gain in recall treatment condition on breaching amnesia
occurring across the two amnesia tests was confirms the trends observed in the earlier
not sufficient to abolish the amnesia entirely: analysis and supports a pseudoamnesia
The amnesia was completely relieved only interpretation of posthypnotic amnesia in
after administration of the reversibility cue. these subjects.
Medium hypnotizability. Similar anal- Differences in hypnotizability. Con-
yses were performed for the 81 subjects of sidering only the amnesic subjects, regard-
medium hypnotizability who passed the cri- less of level of hypnotizability, those who
terion for amnesia. Again, slightly more than maintained amnesia on Test 2 were slightly
half of these subjects (42, or 51.9%) con- more hypnotizable than those who breached
tinued to meet the criterion for amnesia on amnesia (mean corrected HGSHS;A score:
Test 2. Analysis of variance of recall on 7.22 vs. 6.92, respectively), but the trend did
Test 2 and Test 3 showed, once more, sig- not approach statistical significance,
nificant recovery, F(l, 38) = 36.30, p < ?(214) = .89. This difference was expected,
.001, but no effect of instructions (F = .63). and the failure to find it may be due to the
Again, the maintenance of amnesia was not relatively poor ability of HGSHS:A to make
an artifact of forgetting, since memory fine discriminations among hypotizable sub-
improved when the reversibility cue was jects. Alternatively, it may reflect the com-
given. Once again, the proportion of subjects plexity of hypnotic responsiveness and the
612 KIHLSTROM, EVANS, ORNE, AND ORNE

possibility that special abilities or charac- level of final recall, compared to their
teristics, only marginally related to general counterparts who failed the criterion for
hypnotic susceptibility, are associated with initial amnesia. Once again, the impact of
the ability to produce and maintain posthyp- the instructional conditions was apparent
notic amnesia (Evans, 1968; Hilgard, 1965). only for subjects who were relatively insus-
ceptible to hypnosis.
Analysis of Residual Amnesia
Discussion
It may be seen in Figure 1 that overall,
subjects who met the criterion for initial This study sought to examine the effects
posthypnotic amnesia showed less recall on of different instructional contexts on recall
Test 3, after amnesia had been lifted (M = during and after posthypnotic amnesia. Sub-
4.57, SD = 1.98), compared to those who jects of high and moderate hypnotizability
failed to pass the amnesia item (M = 6.18, who met a criterion for initial posthypnotic
SD = 1.67); the difference is significant, amnesia seemed to be unaffected by varia-
r(486) = 9.52, p < .001. This difference tions in instructional demands, compared to
persisted even when, following the proce- a control group that received a simple retest
dure employed by Kihlstrom and Evans with no instruction. Although approximately
(1977), the analysis was restricted to sub- half of each treatment group showed a
jects of high hypnotizability—amnesic, breach in amnesia on the second test, the
M = 4.88, SD = 1.84; nonamnesic, M = highly hypnotizable subjects continued to
6.36, SD = 1.44; ?(187) = 6.07, p < .001.3 manifest a partial amnesia, as evidenced by
As has been argued elsewhere (Hilgard & their recovery of even more memories after
Hommel, 1961; Kihlstrom & Evans, 1977), administration of the reversibility cue; the
the discrepancy in final recall between moderately hypnotizable subjects, however,
amnesic and nonamnesic subjects may manifested a more substantial breakdown of
reflect the residual effect of the suggestion amnesia, failing to show any reversibility.
for posthypnotic amnesia, even though the Whereas the highly and moderately hypnotiz-
suggestion has been formally cancelled. able amnesics were relatively impervious to
More important for present purposes, a changes in testing context, their nonamnesic
3 x 2 x 4 analysis of variance with three counterparts, and all insusceptible subjects,
between-subjects factors (level of hypnotiz- seemed to show the effects of changing
ability, level of initial amnesia, and instruc- situational demands. Their memory reports
tional condition) revealed, in addition to the varied widely, depending on the specific
significant effect of level of initial amnesia instructions given.
just discussed, a significant effect of instruc-
tional condition, F(2, 464) = 3.09, p < .05, Spontaneous Recovery From Amnesia
and a significant three-way interaction, F(6, A significant improvement in memory was
464) = 2.44, p < .05. Scheffe's test, how- observed even in the retest control condi-
ever, did not reveal any significant differ- tion, and it seems appropriate to consider
ences among the treatment conditions. first the findings in this baseline group. An
Accordingly, the overall analysis of variance increment in recall occurred in subjects of
was decomposed into three 3 x 2 analyses high and medium hypnotizability who ini-
—one for each hypnotizability subgroup— tially met the criterion for posthypnotic
with two between-subjects factors (initial amnesia. The group trends, however,
amnesia and treatment condition). There obscure substantial individual differences:
were no significant main effects of treatment Slightly more than half the highs and
condition in any group, but there was a sig- mediums continued to pass the amnesia cri-
nificant Amnesia x Treatment interaction
in the low-hypnotizable subjects,/ 7 (3, 82) = 3
Kihlstrom and Evans (1977, Experiment 2) report
2.90, p < .05. Insusceptible subjects in the a preliminary analysis of the present data based on
challenge condition who met the criterion for different criteria for high hypnotizability and initial
initial amnesia showed by far the lowest amnesia.
BREACHING AMNESIA 613

terion on the retest. Because both groups memory reports given by those subjects of
showed a substantial improvement in mem- high and medium hypnotizability who met
ory after the amnesia suggestion was can- the criterion for initial posthypnotic
celled, this maintenance of amnesia was not amnesia. For these subjects, the increments
an artifact of forgetting (Kihlstrom & Evans, in the cue, challenge, and honesty conditions
1976). For the remaining subjects, who met did not exceed those observed in the unin-
the criterion for amnesia on the first test but structed retest baseline. The effect of the
failed it on the second, the results were instructional conditions was greatest for the
somewhat different. There was a further sig- moderately hypnotizable subjects who failed
nificant improvement in recall shown by the to meet the criterion for initial amnesia.
highly hypnotizable subjects, indicating that There was also some indication of similar
their improvement during amnesia was not effects in three other groups: highly hypno-
generally sufficient to abolish the amnesia tizable subjects who failed amnesia, insus-
entirely. However, their counterparts of ceptible subjects who passed amnesia, and
medium hypnotizability did not show such insusceptible subjects who failed amnesia.
an improvement after the amnesia sugges- Thus, contextual manipulations affected the
tion was cancelled. memory reports of nonamnesic and pseudo-
The retest condition was conceived as a amnesic subjects, but not those of subjects
control group analogous to those employed showing the classical pattern of high hyp-
in the study of reminiscence effects in wak- notic responsiveness coupled with initial
ing memory (Ballard, 1913), and although posfhypnotic amnesia.
some recovery was anticipated, this study Among the nonamnesic groups showing
was not specifically designed to explore the some sort of treatment effect, the pattern of
factors accounting for the apparently spon- results obtained does not implicate any
taneous recovery from amnesia observed in specific factor—retrieval cues, extra effort,
the retest subjects. In general terms, there or honesty—responsible for the changes. It
are two possibilities: a remission or decay of is perhaps best at this point to attribute these
amnesia due to the passage of time or a remi- changes to the nonspecific effects of the
niscence effect stemming from the success- interpolated amnesia test; any indication
ful retrieval of some memories on the initial from the experimenter that underscores the
test of amnesia. A subsequent experiment, importance of the recall test may be expected
in which subjects tested under conditions to yield some increment in the amount of
identical to the present retest group were material recalled. Alternatively, different
compared with another group who received subjects—engaging in different strategies—
a single amnesia test after an interval filled may have responded positively to each type
by distractor tasks, favors the former of instruction.
hypothesis (Kihlstrom, Easton, & Shor, With respect to the amnesic subjects of
Note 2). high and medium hypnotizability, even
detailed analysis failed to reveal a differen-
Response to Variations in Instructional tial effect of the various instructional condi-
Demands tions employed in this experiment. This is
not to say that insertion of the second test
The focus of this study was on the impact had no effect on recall: As would be expected
of the various types of instructions on recall from the literature on reminiscence in mem-
during posthypnotic amnesia, over and ory, some recovery of memory was
above whatever improvement in memory observed. However, this improvement was
was observed in the retest group. The sig- obtained regardless of the nature of any
nificant four-way interaction revealed by the special instructions preceding the second
analysis of variance indicated that their amnesia test. There were also substantial
impact depended on the subjects' level of individual differences in the amount of
hypnotizability and degree of initial amnesia. recovery shown on the second amnesia
There was no indication that the various test. It is possible that other individual dif-
instructional conditions influenced the ferences in addition to the ones considered
614 KIHLSTROM, EVANS, ORNE, AND ORNE

in this experiment were important in deter- hypnotic involvement may lead to a division
mining who, among hypnotizable subjects, in consciousness (Hilgard, 1977) that
did and did not breach amnesia. More renders certain memories temporarily
recent research by Coe and his colleagues inaccessible; for these subjects, who tempo-
(Howard & Coe, in press; Schuyler & Coe, rarily lose control over their memories, a
in press), for example, has found an effect of simple redirection of attention or effort will
changing context (insertion of a "lie detec- not suffice to produce recall.
tor" test or strong honesty demands) on One of the methodological implications of
those hypnotizable subjects who reported these findings for hypnosis research in gen-
that their memory failure was under volun- eral is that it is important to avoid experi-
tary control, but not on those whose amnesia mental contexts that contain either substan-
was experienced as involuntary. tial ambiguities concerning the experi-
The results of the present study appear to menter's expectations or excessive demands
place some boundaries on both the tradi- for compliance; it is also important to con-
tional and alternative views of posthypnotic sider the social pressures inherent in group
amnesia. It seems clear that many subjects, testing procedures. The findings also call for
particularly those of low and medium hyp- a stance of theoretical pluralism. While
notizability, respond differently to amnesia many investigators will prefer to focus their
suggestions depending on the context in attention on the cognitive processes under-
which they are administered. These subjects lying the dissociative behaviors and experi-
may not possess the dissociative abilities ences of deeply hypnotized subjects, others
necessary for a subjectively compelling may wish to focus on the impact of social-
amnesia, but when confronted with the psychological factors such as contextual
amnesia suggestion may attempt to devise demands and individual expectations. With
some means of complying with the experi- this dual point of view in mind, investigators
menter's demands. Any change in these can move beyond the polemics involved in
demands will likely result in a change in the the clash of paradigms and begin to uncover
subjects' memory reports. However, those the psychological processes underlying the
subjects who are capable of experiencing a phenomena of interest.
dissociation of memory, typically hypno-
tizable, may not be responsive to the same Reference Notes
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Spontaneous recovery of memory during posthyp-
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