What Is the Role of Social Influence Theory on Hypnosis?


Jane Flores

What Is the Role of Social Influence Theory on Hypnosis?

Hypnosis is a fascinating phenomenon that has intrigued psychologists and researchers for decades. It involves a state of focused attention, relaxation, and heightened suggestibility. While there are various theories that attempt to explain the mechanism behind hypnosis, one theory that holds significant importance is the social influence theory.

Social Influence Theory

The social influence theory suggests that hypnosis is primarily influenced by social factors and the power of suggestion. According to this theory, an individual’s response to hypnosis is largely influenced by their expectations and beliefs about what will happen during the hypnotic session.

When someone undergoes hypnosis, they enter into a social situation where they are expected to respond in a certain way. The hypnotist acts as an authoritative figure who guides the individual through the hypnotic experience. This social context creates an environment where individuals may feel compelled to comply with the hypnotist’s suggestions.

The Role of Compliance

Compliance plays a crucial role in hypnosis according to the social influence theory. Compliance refers to the tendency of individuals to go along with requests or instructions from authority figures. In a hypnotic setting, individuals may comply with suggestions due to the perceived authority of the hypnotist and their desire to meet societal expectations.


A person undergoing hypnosis may be more likely to comply with suggestions such as “You will feel deeply relaxed” or “You will not feel any pain” because they believe that this is what they should experience during hypnosis.

The Power of Suggestion

Suggestions play a vital role in shaping an individual’s experience during hypnosis. The social influence theory emphasizes that these suggestions can have a profound impact on an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.


If a hypnotist suggests that an individual will feel a tingling sensation in their hand, the person may actually experience this sensation. Similarly, if a hypnotist suggests that an individual will forget certain memories, they may genuinely struggle to recall those memories.

Research Evidence

Research studies have provided support for the social influence theory of hypnosis. In one study conducted by Orne and Evans (1965), participants were given instructions to respond to suggestions as if they were in a hypnotic state. These participants demonstrated similar responses to those who were actually hypnotized, suggesting that compliance and social factors play a significant role in hypnosis.

  • Another study by Spanos et al. (1980) found that individuals who were highly responsive to hypnosis were also more likely to be compliant and suggestible in everyday situations.
  • Furthermore, studies have shown that individuals who are skeptical or have negative beliefs about hypnosis are less likely to respond to hypnotic suggestions, further supporting the role of social influence in hypnosis.


In conclusion, the social influence theory highlights the importance of social factors and suggestibility in understanding hypnosis. Compliance with authority figures and the power of suggestion shape an individual’s response during hypnosis.

Understanding these factors can help explain why some individuals are more responsive to hypnosis than others. As researchers continue to explore this fascinating phenomenon, it is clear that social influence theory provides valuable insights into the role of social context on hypnotic experiences.