IPT Book Reviews

Title: Human Suggestibility   Positive Review
Editor: John F. Schumaker
Publisher: Routledge 1991

Routledge, Chapman, and Hall, Inc.
29 West 35th Street
New York, NY 10001
(212) 244-3336


This 372-page edited book consists of an introduction followed by 18 chapters by researchers in different disciplines.  The chapters are arranged in four sections devoted to the nature of suggestibility, theoretical perspectives, research concerning suggestibility, and applications and implications.  Suggestibility is discussed from many perspectives and in relation to a wide variety of fields, including memory and post-event suggestion, altered states of consciousness in religious experiences, interrogative suggestibility, irrational beliefs, dissociation and hypnotic susceptibility, fantasy proneness, multiple personality, placebo response, psychopathology, education, and advertising.

The 25 contributors, including Elizabeth Loftus, Albert Ellis, Gissli Gudjonsson, Judith Rhue, Steven Lunn, David Spiegel, H. J. Eysenck, and Ernest Hilgard, are well-known experts in their fields and each chapter summarizes the relevant research in their areas.  Although a professional book, the chapters are broad enough to be understandable to lay persons.  There is a bibliography at the end of each chapter and an index for the book as a whole.


The introduction notes that the terms "suggestion" and suggestibility" have been used in various ways which has led to a lack of consensus about the meaning of the terms and the nature of suggestibility.  However, there is general agreement about many concepts, such as the understanding that suggestion is a major feature in hypnosis.  The widely differing perspectives under which suggestibility is addressed compliment one another more than they pose contradictions.

Theories and research on the nature of hypnosis are discussed along with the relationships between fantasy proneness, hypnotizability, and multiple personality.  These chapters therefore are important in understanding the individuals who have recently claimed recovered memories of "repressed" childhood sexual abuse after a therapist suggests this and perhaps hypnotizes them.

Other chapters are also useful in terms of assessing allegations of sexual abuse.  Elizabeth Loftus and her colleagues summarize the research on the suggestibility to the misinformation effect and conclude that not only are reports altered, but that many misled subjects come to believe in their suggested memories as much as they do their real memories.  Gissli Gudjonsson describes his theoretical and empirical model for understanding suggestibility to police interviewing along with his Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale.  His research is applicable where individuals make confessions which they later retract.  There are other chapters less relevant to the issue of child sexual abuse.

This is a useful book in that it contains a broad range of contributions by respected and competent researchers and is a good source of current information in several important areas.

Reviewed by Hollida Wakefield, Institute for Psychological Therapies, Northfield, Minnesota.

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