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Use Hypnosis to Study the Effect of Color Processing of the Brain

Friday, January 08, 2010 by: Steve G. Jones, Ed.S.
Tags: hypnosis, colors, health news

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(NewsTarget) Although hypnosis has been used for centuries, there is still a lot to learn about where it comes from and how it works. Hypnosis is a state of consciousness and since its origination is in the brain, it can be difficult to study. However, studies have involved color and how it is perceived by people in a hypnotic state in order to more fully understand how hypnosis affects the brain and its ability to process color.

Milton Erickson was one of the leading researchers of hypnosis in the 20th century. He was a psychiatrist who specialized in medical hypnosis. He founded the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis. He also influenced neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and conducted in-depth research on the power of the unconscious mind including several studies of color.

Erickson and Erickson (1938) conducted a study involving 4 participants. They received hypnotic suggestions that a white piece of paper was actually red, blue, green, or yellow. They were given specific hypnotic suggestions to see the complementary color of a previous sheet when shown a white piece of paper. The results showed that all 4 participants hallucinated the complementary color of the preceding sheet of paper. This was the result of the hypnosis and hypnotic suggestions.

Erickson (1939) conducted another study having to do with color and hypnotic suggestion. This study involved color-blindness. The study involved 6 participants with normal vision. However, the hypnotic suggestions were designed to induce color-blindness. An Ishihara test was conducted to determine the extent of color blindness. One participant associated the number 3 with the color red and after receiving the hypnotic suggestions, was not able to comprehend the number 3. This study led Erickson to determine that color blindness originates in the cortical area of the brain and hypnosis can influence it.

Another study included 8 highly hypnotizable participants. The goal of the study was to provide insight into hypnosis and to see if hypnosis affects color perception. The participants were asked to see a specific color pattern while receiving a positron emission tomography (PET) scan. Researchers looked at the fusiform and lingual areas of the brain and compared the images of when participants saw color patterns and when they saw gray patterns.

Results of this study (during hypnosis) showed that the left and right hemispheres of the brain showed activity when the participant was asked to see color. However, when the participants were asked to see gray, there was reduced activity in the brain. The study also showed that there were changes in blood flow in the left hemisphere of the brain whether the participant had received hypnosis or not. The findings of this study show that hypnosis is a state of consciousness with distinct neural correlates.


Erickson, M.H. (1939). The induction of color blindness by a technique of hypnotic suggestion. The Journal of Experimental Psychology, 20, 61-89.

Erickson, M.H. & Erickson, E.M. (1938). The hypnotic induction of hallucinatory color vision followed by pseudo-negative after-images. The Journal of Experimental Psychology, 22(6), 581-588.

Kosslyn, S.M., Thompson, W.L., Costantini-Ferrando, M.F., Alpert, N.M., & Spiegel, D. (2000). Hypnotic visual illusion alters color processing in the brain. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 157, 1279-1284.

About the author

Steve G. Jones, Ed.S. has been practicing hypnotherapy since the 1980s. He is the author of 22 books on Hypnotherapy. Steve is a member of the National Guild of Hypnotists, American Board of Hypnotherapy, president of the American Alliance of Hypnotists, on the board of directors of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Lung Association, and director of the Steve G. Jones School of Clinical Hypnotherapy.
Steve G. Jones, Ed.S. is a board certified Clinical Hypnotherapist. He has a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Florida (1994), a master's degree in education from Armstrong Atlantic State University (2007), and is currently working on a doctorate in education, Ed.D., at Georgia Southern University. Learn more at:

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