Hypnosis is “a trance state characterized by extreme suggestibility, relaxation and heightened imagination.” It is usually induced by a procedure known as a hypnotic induction, which is commonly composed of a long series of preliminary instructions and suggestions. Hypnotic suggestions may be delivered by a hypnotist in the presence of the subject, or may be self-administered (“self-suggestion” or “autosuggestion”). The use of hypnotism for therapeutic purposes is referred to as “hypnotherapy”, while its use as a form of entertainment for an audience is known as “stage hypnosis”.
Contrary to a popular misconception—that hypnosis is a form of unconsciousness resembling sleep—contemporary research suggests that hypnotic subjects are fully awake and are focusing attention, with a corresponding decrease in their peripheral awareness. Subjects also show an increased response to suggestions.