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"This work owes its existence to observations of the effects of therapeutic suggestion upon individuals subject to contrary sexuality. The favorable results obtained in "congenital" urnings by psychical treatment in the hypnotic state placed before me the alternative either to assume that suggestion is capable of influencing congenital abnormalities of the mind or to prove that in the idea of homo-sexuality at present prevalent the hereditary factor is overestimated, to the disadvantage of educational influences."--Therapeautic Suggestion in Psychopathia Sexualis (1898) by Albert von Schrenck-Notzing

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Suggestion is the psychological process by which one person guides the thoughts, feelings, or behavior of another person. Nineteenth-century writers on psychology such as William James used the words "suggest" and "suggestion" in the context of a particular idea which was said to suggest another when it brought that other idea to mind. Early scientific studies of hypnosis by Clark Leonard Hull and others extended the meaning of these words in a special and technical sense (Hull, 1933). The original neuropsychological theory of hypnotic suggestion was based upon the ideomotor reflex response of William B. Carpenter and James Braid.


For nineteenth century writers on psychology such as William James the words "suggest" and "suggestion" were used in senses very close to those which they have in common speech; one idea was said to suggest another when it brought that other idea to mind.

Early scientific studies of hypnosis by scientists such as Clark Leonard Hull led to the extension of the meaning these words in a special and technical sense.

Directives or propositions that were accepted by the subject were called suggestions. By contrast, if they were not accepted the directives or propositions concerned were not considered to be "suggestive". This created a problem: directives or propositions could only be deemed "suggestive" or "non-suggestive" retrospectively. Subjects who accepted the offered "suggestions" were said to be "suggestible" (with all of this term's connotations of mindless gullibility, rather than cognitive and imaginative talent). Other sorts of suggestion may be merely implied by a gesture, a glance, or the overheard chance remark made to a third person, are often described as "non-verbal suggestion".

Suggestion and hysteria were linked by neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot and psychologist Pierre Janet of the so-called Paris School towards the end of the nineteenth century.

The hypnotists of the so-called Nancy school (who spoke of "suggestive therapeutics") gave general currency to the doctrine that the most essential feature of the hypnotic state is the extent to which the hypnotized subject accepts, believes, and acts in accordance with every directive or proposition offered to them by the hypnotist.

Modern scientific study of hypnosis separates two essential factors: "trance" and suggestion. The state of mind induced by "trance" is said to come about via the process of a hypnotic induction; essentially instructions and suggestions that an individual will enter a hypnotic state. Once a subject has entered hypnosis, suggestions are given which can produce the effects sought by the hypnotist. Commonly used suggestions on measures of "suggestibility" or "susceptibility" (or, for those with a different theoretical orientation, "hypnotic talent") include suggestions that one's arm is getting lighter and floating up in the air, or the suggestion that a fly is buzzing around your head. The "classic" response to an accepted suggestion that one's arm is beginning to float in the air is that the subject perceives the intended effect as happening involuntarily.

Suggestions, however, can also have an effect in the absence of a hypnosis. These so-called "waking suggestions" are given in precisely the same way as "hypnotic suggestions" (i.e., suggestions given within hypnosis) and can produce strong changes in perceptual experience.

Professor Irving Kirsch has conducted a lot of research investigating such non-hypnotic-suggestibility and found a strong correlation between people's responses to suggestion both in- and outside hypnosis. There are other forms of suggestibility, though not all are considered interrelated, these include: primary and secondary suggestibility, hypnotic suggestibility (i.e., the response to suggestion measured within hypnosis), and interrogative suggestibility.

Suggestive (adjective)


  1. tending to suggest or imply
    The painting is abstract, but the colors are suggestive of fruit or the Mediterranean.
  2. especially, suggesting romance, sex, etc.
    She crossed her legs and shot him a suggestive smile.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Suggestion" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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