University of Sussex
Lush, Peter J.I..pdf (1.41 MB)

The sense of agency in hypnosis and meditation

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posted on 2023-06-09, 12:13 authored by Peter LushPeter Lush
The sense of agency is the experience of being the initiator of our intentional actions and their outcomes. According to higher order thought theory, a representation becomes conscious when there is a higher order state about it. Thus conscious experience, including that of intentions, is metacognitive. The experience of involuntariness characteristic of hypnotic responding may be attributable to the formation and maintenance of inaccurate metacognitive higher order states of intending. Conversely, the practice of Buddhist mindfulness meditation may develop accurate metacognition, including higher order states of intending. Highly hypnotisable people and mindfulness meditators may therefore occupy two ends of a spectrum of metacognitive ability with regard to unconscious intentions. The presented research investigated predicted trait differences in cognitive tasks which directly or indirectly reflect metacognition of intentions: the timing of an experience of an intention to move and the compressed time interval between a voluntary action and its outcome, known as intentional binding. As an implicit measure of sense of agency, intentional binding was also employed to investigate the veridicality of reports of the experience of involuntariness in hypnotic responding. Additionally, while hypnosis presents a unique opportunity to investigate reliable changes in agentic experience, existing hypnosis screening instruments are time consuming and present a barrier to wider adoption of hypnosis as an instrument for studying consciousness. Here a revised, time-efficient hypnosis screening procedure (the SWASH) is presented. Consistent with predictions, highly hypnotisable groups reported later awareness of motor intentions than less hypnotisable groups and meditators earlier awareness than non-meditators. In an intentional binding task, high hypnotisables showed less binding of an action-outcome toward an action (outcome binding) than low hypnotisables and meditators more outcome binding than non-meditators. Outcome binding was reduced in post-hypnotic involuntary action compared to voluntary action. It is proposed that intentional binding is driven by a cue combination mechanism and that these differences reflect varying precision of motor intention related information in reported timing judgements. The SWASH was found to be a reliable hypnosis screening instrument.


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