Many theories of hypnotic responding have proposed that differences in hypnotic trait rely on differences in frontal attentional functions. Evidence of hypnotizability-related attentional abilities are, however, very scant. This study was designed to investigate the relationship between hypnotizability and executive control components of attention in the spatial domain. We chose the Attention Network Test that enables to analyze alerting, orienting and executive control functions by measuring reaction times (RTs) to targets cued for different locations in space. According to Posner theory, alerting, orienting and executive control effects were found in both groups. No differences between highly susceptible (Highs) and low susceptible individuals (Lows) on executive control functions were found. However, in Highs alerting was significantly smaller than in Lows and Highs were significantly faster than Lows in the no and central cue conditions. These findings suggest that Highs would be endowed with a basal higher efficiency in achieving and maintaining their readiness to respond to incoming stimuli. This relation between hypnotizability and alerting, is discussed in terms of a possible more efficient noradrenergic activity driven by frontal attentional systems.
Castellani E, D'Alessandro L, Sebastiani L. Department of Physiology and Biochemistry, University of Pisa, Via S. Zeno 31, 56127 Pisa, Italy.