|| Human Suggestibility
|| John F. Schumaker
Routledge, Chapman, and Hall, Inc.
29 West 35th Street
New York, NY 10001
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
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
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
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.