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Research on using Hypnosis to improve Golf Putting and Flow state

This is a summary of my Ph.D research on effect of traditional Hypnosis on improving golf putting performance and flow state. It takes me a year to finish this study including data collection, analysis, writing.... While it is still in the middle of a journal submission, I thought it would be useful for golfers to have a look at this research. Thank you all my participants for your wonderful contribution to the success of this research.




1. Abstract


Flow has nine dimensions divided into five antecedents and four concomitant dimensions (CD)s) (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975). The CDs include: action-awareness merging, loss of self-consciousness, time transformation, and autotelic experience, all of which have some similarities with the hypnotic trance state. This study aims to evaluate whether a hypnotic state facilitates flow and enhances performance via the CDs. Twenty golfers were divided into either traditional or neutral hypnosis condition, matched for participants’ hypnotisability score. Golfers putted 56 putts at 4m distance from a hole at pre-test and post-test. On each occasion, they then completed the FSS-2. Using a two-way mixed design ANOVA, we found significantly larger increases in the sense of control and loss of self-consciousness flow dimensions for traditional hypnosis than for neutral hypnosis. This result partially supports our hypothesis that hypnosis enhances flow through the CDs and improves performance.


Hypnosis improve golf putting performance


2. Method

2.1 Participants

The overall sample consisted of 17 male and 3 female golfers between 18 and 60 years of age who played club competition rounds at least once a week and practiced at least once a week, at the time they participated in the study. The range of their golf experience was from 3 to 45 years. Their handicaps (HC) range was from +2 to 20.


2.2 Study design

The study involved a two-group, pre-test, intervention, post-test comparison experimental design to compare the effect of a Traditional Hypnosis (TH) intervention, and a Neutral Hypnosis (NH) intervention on flow dimensions, global flow state, and performance of experienced golfers. An advantage of this independent groups experimental design was that it minimized order effects (such as practice, fatigue, or learning from the first condition tested) that can occur in a repeated measures design, because individuals only participated in one condition. The NH condition was used as a control to check for a placebo effect.

2.3 Measures


2.3.1 Demographic information form.

2.3.2 Waterloo-Stanford Group C Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility (WSGC; Bowers, 1993, 1998).

2.3.3 Golf putting performance.

Golfers performed putts in a pre-determined random sequence from eight positions, equidistant from the hole (4m) on a practice putting green of their local golf course. Golfers had 10 warm-up putts, followed immediately by 7 trials of 8 putts each (56 test putts in total). We calculated the score of each putt based on radial error, which was the distance from the centre of the hole to the centre of the ball when it stopped after each putt. The performance score was the mean of the 56 post-putt distances. If the ball went into the hole the radial error was zero and we noted successful putts. Golfers took 60-90 minutes to finish their 56 putts with a short 2-minute break after completing 28 putts.


2.3.4 Flow State Scale-2 (FSS-2; Jackson & Eklund, 2002).

2.3.5 Diary of self-managed hypnosis.

2.3.6 Brief social validation assessment.


2.4 Research conditions

2.4.1 Traditional hypnosis condition. (TH)

In the first intervention session, we guided participants through a live hypnosis session with five stages, including introduction, induction, deepening, trancework, and awakening. We used the PMR technique, popularised by Jacobson (1938) for the induction stage, and the 10-step Ericksonian staircase technique, outlined by Hammond (1990), for the deepening stage. In the trancework stage, we used suggestions specifically to address the change needed for golfers to improve their putting performance. To enhance the effects, we gave golfers multiple positive, repetitive, ego strengthening, and motivational suggestions during this trancework stage. In the awakening stage, we counted up from 1 to 10 to bring the hypnotized person back to the awake and alert state. After the initial live session, we asked participants to listen to the audio digital file of the 60-minute live session once a day for 7 days. We asked them to complete a diary at the end of each session. We sent e-mails to participants every two days to remind them to perform the session and complete the diary.


2.4.2 Neutral hypnosis condition (NH)

Participants in this condition received the same intervention process as participants in the TH condition, except for removal of the hypnotic trancework. We gave participants additional PMR suggestions after deepening to ensure that the NH intervention lasted 60 minutes, the same time as the TH condition. NH acted as a comparison condition in which content and time were the same, except for additional PMR replacing trancework. Hence, the difference in scores between the two conditions was likely to be due to the effect of trancework and not a placebo effect associated with conduct of a hypnosis process.


3. Results


There was a significant interaction effect for the sense of control dimension, with a very large effect size (Figure 1). The figure shows a strong, disordinal interaction effect. In this case, the TH condition shows a large increase from pre-test to post-test, whereas the NH condition shows a clear decrease.


Figure 1. Change in the sense of control dimension from pre-test to post-test



hypnosis improves sense of control



There was a significant interaction effect for the loss of self-consciousness dimension, with a very large effect size (Figure 2). The figure shows a strong, disordinal interaction effect. In this case, the TH condition showed a large increase from pre-test to post-test, whereas the NH condition showed a clear decrease.


Figure 2. Change in the loss of self-consciousness dimension from pre-test to post-test


hypnosis increases flow state in golfers


3.2 Golf putting performance

There was a significant interaction effect for radial error, with a very large effect size. This noteworthy interaction effect (Figure 3) indicates that the TH condition showed an improvement in performance whereas performance deteriorated in the NH condition from pre-test to post-test.

Figure 3. Change in radial error from pre-test to post-test


golfers putt better with hypnosis script



The ANOVA result revealed no significant conditions, occasions, or interaction effect for number of putts holed, but for the interaction, there was a large effect size, indicating that the TH increase in number of putts holed was noteworthy compared with the NH condition, as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Change in number of putts holed from pre-test to post-test


hypnosis increases number of putt holed in golf


4. Discussion

4.1 Global flow and flow state dimensions


The results showed that TH did not create significantly greater improvement in global flow state from pre-test to post-test, compared to NH. Two flow dimensions, sense of control (antecedent) and loss of self-consciousness (concomitant) showed significantly larger increases in flow for TH than for NH, which actually decreased from pre-test to post-test. These results partially supported the hypothesis.


These results partially support previous research by Pates (2013), Pates and Cowen (2013), Pates et al. (2002), Pates and Maynard (2000), Pates, Oliver et al. (2001), Pates and Palmi (2002), and Lindsay et al. (2005) that found a hypnosis intervention increased global flow state. The only dimension that showed no significant main effect of occasion from pre-test to post-test was the unambiguous feedback dimension.


The loss of self-consciousness dimension score for the TH condition increased 24.8%, while the score for the NH condition had a slight decrease of 4.4%.

In the TH condition, the trancework script not only included suggestions that participants feel confident and execute the putts well, but also be their own spectator and competitors, and observe themselves from a distance. From these public eyes, suggestions encouraged participants to see themselves as confident, self-assured, and successful players. The suggested positive image of the self as viewed by others could have been an explanation for the substantial increase in the loss of self-consciousness flow dimension in the TH condition. Conversely, in the NH condition, there were no trancework suggestions to help participants deal with the pressure of being viewed by the audience or opponents. Hence, the lack of trancework suggestions could explain why the score on the loss of self-consciousness dimension declined marginally in the NH condition.


4.1.2 Change in the time transformation dimension.

Time transformation is one of the two concomitant dimensions that were predicted to be positively influenced by hypnosis. There were noteworthy increases in time transformation with a 38.24% increase in the mean for the TH condition and a 21.93% increase for the NH condition. The difference between the two conditions was not significant. The trancework script of the TH condition did not specifically emphasize the time transformation dimension, which might be one reason why there was no significant difference between the two conditions.


4.1.3 Change in the sense of control dimension.

A significant difference between the TH condition and the NH condition was found for sense of control, which is an antecedent flow state dimension, according to Stavrou and Zervas (2004). Sense of control increased significantly more in the TH condition than it did in the NH condition. Sense of control is a phenomenon that is not widely reported as an experience of being in hypnosis, rather it is a state that helps individuals to achieve flow. Sense of control can be described as a combination of a feeling of confidence and calmness or relaxation.





4.2 Performance

From the performance perspective, TH clearly improved performance more than NH, based on the significantly larger decrease in putting radial error from the hole in the TH condition at post-test. Figure 3 indicates an ordinal interaction, in which participants in the TH condition reduced their radial error after the intervention, whereas golfers in the NH condition increased their radial error, so their performance deteriorated. There was a large effect size for radial error, which indicates that the effect was meaningful. Two-way mixed design ANOVA showed no significant difference between the TH condition and the NH condition for number of putts holed. Figure 2 shows a disordinal interaction in which number of putts holed was smaller for the TH condition than for the NH condition at pre-test, but number of putts holed increased substantially for participants in the TH condition at post-test, whereas number of putts holed decreased for those in the NH condition. Although the interaction was not statistically significant, the effect size was large, suggesting that the larger change observed for the TH condition than the NH condition was meaningful. The performance results of this study support research in self-paced, closed skill golfers by Pates (2013), Pates and Cowen (2013), Pates and Maynard (2000), and Pates, Oliver et al. (2001) that hypnosis can improve performance. The present results also support research by Pates, Maynard et al. (2001), Pates et al. (2002), Pates and Palmi (2002), and Vasquez (2005), who reported that hypnosis interventions lead to improvement of self-paced, closed skill task performance in other sports, including basketball and badminton.

In the present study, we demonstrated that TH had a larger positive effect on putting performance than NH. Because NH includes all the components of hypnosis except trancework, this leads to a more confident conclusion that the effect of hypnosis on performance was associated with the trancework component of the TH condition.


5. Conclusions

Based on the results of the present study, it may be possible to conclude that TH helped golfers to improve their putting performance more than NH. TH also seemed to have greater influence on golfers’ ability to experience flow compared with NH. The results of this study have some practical implications for athletes beyond golf. It is possible for athletes in self-paced, closed-skill sports to improve performance and capability to experience flow, using TH. This information is particularly useful for hypnosis practitioners to help golfers to improve their putting performance. Nonetheless, more research is needed on the structure, content, and aspects of the delivery of hypnosis in sport contexts. It is also important for researchers to continue to delve into the mechanisms by which hypnosis enhances flow state. In that respect, we propose that it is important to strategically examine the nine flow state dimensions, not just global flow state, in future research.


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