Suggestion: Is a change in perception necessary to modulate cognitive conflict?
By Umair Akram
It has been suggested that when in a highly focused state, some individuals can better utilise attentional resources allowing them to ignore stimuli which may be distracting. Further, it has been postulated that hypnosis is nessesary in alleviating cognitive conflict that impairs task specific attentional processing. Indeed, it has been determined that the use of suggestion including a perceptual change after posthypnotic induction can reduce cognitive conflict that hinders performance on a flanker task (1).
See here for more information on the flanker task.
However, a posthypnotic induction is not always required to reduce cognitive conflict, and often suggestion alone is sufficient 2. With this in mind, research has yet to determine whether suggestion can modulate cognitive conflict without directly targeting a change in ones perception.
Preliminary findings amongst an undergraduate sample high in suggestibility, who were provided with a brief suggestion (i.e. gaze will be captured like a magnet / attention will be completely absorbed by the central letter / any other letters are irrelevant), demonstrated no difference in accuracy on a flanker task between those provided with or without the suggestion prior to the task.
These findings suggest that the use of suggestion without the inclusion of a perceptual change is not sufficient in altering attentional processes that subsequently reduce cognitive conflict in the flanker task.