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A term coined by Ernest Hilgard to define a state of consciousness that one reaches, usually during hypnosis. Hilgard believed that hypnosis causes a split in awareness and a vivid form of everyday mind splits. [1] Hilgard drew themes from Pierre Janet and viewed hypnosis from this perspective as willingness to divide the main systems of consciousness into different sectors. This split in consciousness can not only help define the state one reaches during hypnosis but can also help to define a vast range of psychological issues such as multiple personality disorder. The theory of a division of consciousness was even touched upon by Carl Jung in 1935 when he stated “The so-called unity of consciousness is an illusion…we like to think that we are one but we are not.”[2] In Hilgard's Divided Consciousness Reconsidered, he offers a great many examples of "dissociated" human behavior. With regard to theory, he does state that it is useful to assign two modes of consciousness, a receptive mode and an active mode--that is, a himodal consciousness. In other places he mentions the concept of coconsciousness, wherein two or more states of consciousness may be equally receptive or active, as, for example, in some types of multiple personality.[3] Many psychological studies assume a unity of consciousness. Doubt is cast on this assumption (a) by psychophysical studies in normal subjects and those with blindsight showing the simultaneous dissociation of different modes of report of a sensation, and (b) by clinical studies of anosognosic patients showing dissociations of awareness of their own states. These and other phenomena are interpreted to imply two kinds of division of consciousness: the separation of phenomenal experience from reflexive consciousness and the non-unity of reflexive consciousness. Reflexive consciousness is taken to be necessary for report and is associated with the self as the subject of experience and agent of report. Reflexive consciousness is operative only when we attend to our own states. When we are involved in the world reflexivity intervenes less and our consciousness is more unified.[4]


The theory has been tried and tested and many some tests have proven that the theory makes is legitimate. Others such as one performed on 169 undergraduate students some of whom performed tasks in selective attention and divided attention conditions being correlated with scores on the Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility refute Hilgard’s findings.[5]


  1. (Myers, David G. Psychology: Eighth Edition in Modules. New York, NY: Worth Publishers, 2007)
  2. (Review: Dissociationism Revived, Matthew Hugh Erdelyi, Science, New Series, Vol. 200, No. 4342 (May 12, 1978), pp. 654-655; Published by: American Association for the Advancement of Science)
  3. Huebner, B. (1979). Distributing cognition: A defense of collective mentality, Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 8 (6),591; Retrieved from
  4. Hebb, D, Juzyck, P, Klein R.,(1983). The Nature of Thought, Medical Research Council, Applied Psychology Unit, Cambridge, UK. Retrieved from,+Peter+W.+Jusczyk,+Raymond+M.+Klein&source=bl&ots=N_f-8zNr2K&sig=dBHDyYyDKSCTQ4YohMjalD85fxY&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=4&ct=result#PPA32,M1
  5. Some operationalizations of the neodissociation concept and their relationship to hypnotic susceptibility. Stava, Lawrence J.; Jaffa, Melvyn. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol 54(6), Jun 1988, 989-996.)
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