Academic Performance and Hypnosis

As I have finally finished my year long research project, amazingly for me ahead of schedule, I will be posting my findings for each of the research areas over the coming weeks. I hope you find it useful, interesting and enlightening and please feel free to comment and discuss anything that interests you or you disagree with.

The first area I looked into was Academic Performance and how hypnotic training and the use of self-hypnosis could positively influence memory retention for studying, memory recall for exams and managing test anxiety and stress.

Interestingly, as is covered in a later study specifically about memory and hypnosis, there is no real advantage in the use of hypnosis for memory enhancement. However, The studies that I researched concluded that hypnosis is a viable modality for the improvement of performance in exams as a result of improved emotional state management and the reduction of stress and anxiety.


Study 1: Stress and Test Anxiety – Medical Residents
A Trial of Virtual Hypnosis to Reduce Stress and Test Anxiety in Family Medicine Residents

Results: Six out of the eight residents who completed the hypnosis program reported that it reduced stress, was relaxing, and they enjoyed participating in the program. Five reported a reduction in test-taking anxiety, and three felt it improved test scores. Residents did report a high level of satisfaction with hypnosis.

Notes: This was a randomized controlled clinical trial involving 16 family medicine residents. Eight were randomly selected for virtual hypnosis (a software program designed to simulate hypnosis sessions – and emphasizing a positive self-regard and confidence in test taking) and eight for usual exam preparation.

Family Medicine, February 2010, Vol. 42, No. 2, p. 85
By: Susan Graham, MSW, Anthony N. Vettraino, Jr, MD , Family Medicine Residency, Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, Brighton, Michigan & Raouf Seifeldin, MD Family Medicine Residency, Doctors’ Hospital of Michigan, Bonita Singal, MD, PhD Saint Joseph Mercy Health System

Study 2: Exam Anxiety/Scholastic Performance – School Children (13 and 14-Year Olds)
Impact of Hypnotherapy on Examination Anxiety and Scholastic Performance among School Children

Results: Pre test anxiety scores ranged from 80-92% among all the children while post test anxiety scores dropped to a range of 60-68 %. The pre test academic scores ranged 50-57% while post intervention scores increased by 10-15%. Further, anxiety symptoms of forgetting before the exam, excessive nervousness, sweating during and before the exam, going blank after seeing the paper were all controlled/eliminated after hypnotherapy and these were observed by the teachers, parents and the children themselves. These results indicated that hypnotherapy as treatment intervention proved to be effective in reducing exam anxiety and improving scholastic performance among children.

Notes: A one group pre and post test design was used. A 10 item anxiety test was administered on 10 school children of 13 and 14 years of age. Anxiety and scholastic achievement scores were obtained both before and after hypnotherapy intervention. The children were given 2 sessions each week in a month just before the exams and before each exam day. The hypnosis techniques used were relaxation exercises, anxiety management about taking exams and positive suggestions given to the subconscious mind. The experiences of each of the 10 children are detailed individually in the report.

Delhi Psychiatry Journal, October 2011, Vol. 14 No.2, p. 337
By: Shachi Mathur, Waheeda Khan, Department of Psychology, Jamia Millia Islamia New Delhi

Study 3: Exam Anxiety/Academic Achievement – College Students
Hypnotherapy and test anxiety: Two cognitive-behavioral constructs: The effects of hypnosis in reducing test anxiety and improving academic achievement in college students.

Results: There was a decrease in test anxiety and improvements in achievement for the hypnosis group. The treatment gains were maintained at 6-wk follow-up.

Notes: Investigated the effects of cognitive-behavioral hypnosis in reducing test anxiety and improving academic performance. 44 introductory psychology students received 4 sessions of hypnosis and 50 Hawthorne controls received no treatment over the same time period. Subjects’ midterm test grades and scores on the Test Anxiety Inventory were examined.

Australian Journal of Clinical Hypnotherapy and Hypnosis, Vol 12(1), Mar 1991, 25-31
By: Marty Sapp, Professor, Department of Educational Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Study 4: Academic Performance – University Students
The effect of hypnotic training programs on the academic performance of students.

Results: The two hypnotic training programs had a significant effect on the academic achievement of the participants, which was not found in the control groups.

Notes: The main objective of the study was to empirically verify the effect of hypnotic training programs on the academic performance of students. A pre and posttest design was used. Two experimental and two control groups (total sample N=119) of volunteer second year psychology students at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa comprised the sample. One of the experimental groups was exposed to active alert hypnosis and the other to relaxation hypnosis. One control group was exposed to progressive relaxation, while the other did not receive any intervention. The participants’ April grades were used as a pretest, while their June grades served as a posttest. The two hypnotic training programs had a significant effect on the academic achievement of the participants, which was not found in the control groups.

Am J Clin Hypn. 2006 Oct;49(2):101-12
By: H. M. De Vos, D. A. Louw, Department of Psychology, University of the Free State, P.O. Box 339, Bloemfontein, 9300, South Africa

Study 5: Academic Self-Efficacy – 1st Generation College Students
Effects of Hypnosis on the Academic Self-Efficacy of First Generation College Students

Results: The comments provided from participants show evidence of a positive effect obtained from the use of self- hypnosis and the utilization of hypnosis as a tool. At the end of the study when the investigator contacted participants, some feedback suggested evidence of decreased stress, increased feelings of relaxation, and a greater sense of efficacy for completing tasks. One of the participants stated: “It helps me relax and I don’t feel so overwhelmed.” Another participant explained: “It’s so easy to do and I feel more energized to get things done.” Some participants indicated positive effects at the one-week follow- up. The following comments concerning tests and study skills were reported: “I took a test right after [the initial meeting with the investigator] and felt that I did the best that I have ever done”, “It helps me study. I noticed that I was able to really concentrate.”,“I usually feel anxiety during a test, but this time I wasn’t nervous at all.” These comments suggest that individually, participants experienced a wide variety of positive effects from the hypnotic suggestions used.

Notes: 31 participants in the immediate-treatment group were exposed to hypnosis with suggestions intended to build academic self-efficacy and taught to use the provided suggestions on their own during self- hypnosis. The participants were then taught self-hypnosis and provided with three primary confidence building self- hypnosis suggestions: “I am confident in my ability to be a successful student;” “I can successfully complete the tasks set out before me,” and “I am capable of succeeding in college.” At the end of the meeting participants were provided a handout consisting of step-by-step instructions detailing the process of undergoing self-hypnosis.

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Arts in Education, Washington State University Department of Educational Leadership and Counseling Psychology August 2004
By: Alisia Rose Caban

Study 6: Exam Stress – Medical Students
Coping with examination stress through hypnosis: an experimental study.

Results: The hypnosis group improved significantly in coping with examination stress.

Notes: Fifty-six volunteer medical students participated. The hypnosis and waking groups attended eight group sessions once a week with general ego-strengthening and specific suggestions for study habits, with a ninth session of age progression and mental rehearsal. Subjects in these two groups practiced self-suggestions (in self-hypnosis or waking respectively) daily for the study period of 9 weeks. The control group experienced sessions of passive relaxation induced by light reading for the same period of time.
Am J Clin Hypn. 1989 Jan;31(3):173-80
By: B. M. Palan, S. Chandwani

Study 7: Self-Hypnosis, Exam Stress, and Staying Healthy for Exam Periods – Medical Students
Self-hypnosis and exam stress: comparing immune and relaxation-related imagery for influences on immunity, health and mood.

Results: Medical students receiving self-hypnosis training and immune-related imagery reported fewer viral illnesses, such as colds and influenza, during the exam period. Immune-related imagery was also more successful than relaxation imagery in buffering decline in total lymphocytes and subsets. Independent of instructions, hypnosis buffered the decline in CD8 cytotoxic T-cells observed in control subjects.

Notes: The effects of self-hypnosis training on immune function, mood and health at exam time in medical schools were examined, comparing instructions of enhanced immune function with relaxation, whereas instructions of increased energy, alertness, concentration and happiness were common to both procedures. Training consisted of three weekly group sessions, with unrestricted home practice with an audiocassette. Immune assays involved CD3, CD4, CD8, CD19 lymphocytes, CD56 natural killer (NK) cells and blood cortisol.

Contemporary Hypnosis, Volume 18, Issue 2, pages 73-86, June 2001
By: Professor John Gruzelier*, Department of Cognitive Neuroscience and Behaviour, Imperial College School of Medicine, London, UK
Jonathon Levy, John Williams, Don Henderson

Study 8: Hypnosis, Exam Stress, Staying Healthy for Exams – More Medical Students
Cellular and humoral immunity, mood and exam stress: the influences of self-hypnosis and personality predictors

Results: Immunity was influenced positively by a brief hypnosis intervention in the face of routine exam stress. Energy ratings were higher after hypnosis (P<0.01), and increased calmness with hypnosis correlated with an increase in CD4 counts (P<0.01). Self-hypnosis buffered the decline found in controls in NK (P<0.002) and CD8 cells (P<0.0.07) and CD8/CD4% (P<0.06) (45-35% order of magnitude differences) while there was an increase in cortisol (P<0.05). The change in NK cell counts correlated positively with changes in both CD8 cells and cortisol. Results were independent of changes in life-style. The activated temperament, notably the cognitive subscale (speaking and thinking quickly), was predictive of exam levels of T and B lymphocytes (P«0.08-P<0.02), and reaching r=0.72 (P<0.001) in the non-intervention control group. The sizeable influences on cell-mediated immunity achieved by a relatively brief, low cost hypnosis intervention in the face of a compelling, but routine, stress in young, healthy adults have implications for illness prevention and for patients with compromised immunity.

Notes: The effects of self-hypnosis training on immune function and mood were examined in medical students at exam time. Hypnosis involved relaxation and imagery directed at improved immune function and increased energy, alertness and concentration.. Eight high and eight low hypnotically susceptible participants were given 10 sessions of hypnosis, one live and nine tape-recorded, and were compared with control subjects (N=12). CD3, CD4, CD8, CD19 and CD56 NK cells and blood cortisol were assayed. Life-style, activated vs. withdrawn temperament, arousal and anxiety questionnaires were administered.

International Journal of Psychophysiology, Volume 42, Issue 1, August 2001, Pages 55-71
By: John Gruzelier, Department of Cognitive Neuroscience and Behaviour, Imperial College Medical School, St. Dunstan’s Road, London W6 8RF, UK