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Sports Hypnosis Evidence

This is a selection of science based research from highly regarded academic institutes and researchers, with not an ounce of woo woo involved. ¬†ūüėČ

These are the results of applied clinical techniques from some of many independant researches available. They demonstrated clinical evidence with measurable effects and thus created theoretical concepts into hypnosis and its measurable effects sports performance.  

I value this emperical evidence highly and utilise it in my work, as I and my clients see the positive impact it has on their performances.

Stanford University’s Speigel Lab’s findings on the effects of hypnosis to promote state changes


Theories of what’s happening: 

Symbolic Learning Theory

A theory on how one’s imagination can improve one’s¬†achievement.¬†¬†This theory states that imagination can improve systems of behaviour and action. What one believes and imagines will affect our ability to reach the goal. Symbolic Learning Theory:¬†¬†means that a person will imagine in the head what will he do to paint a great landscape before actually taking the brush and colours”¬†N., Pam M.S., “SYMBOLIC LEARNING THEORY,” in¬†, April 13, 2013

Psycho-Neuromuscular theory 

The Oxford Dictionary of Sports Science & Medicine (3 ed.)

A theory postulated to explain the positive effects of motor imagery. 

It suggests that vivid, imagined events produce neuromuscular responses similar to those of an actual experience. That is, the images produced in the brain transmit impulses to the muscles for the execution of the imagined skill, although these impulses may be so minor that they do not actually produce movement or the movement may be undetectable. Support for this theory comes from a number of sources.

Flow State (psychology)

In flow state, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. 

In essence, flow is characterised by the complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting transformation in one’s sense of time.

Often used interchangeably with other concepts such as peak performance and/or peak experience. 

What do Flow State and Hypnosis have in common?

Privette (1983); Flow State and Hypnosis, shared attributes:

  • Absorption in the activity.

  • Joy.

  • A valuing of the experience.

  • Spontaneity.

  • A sense of power.

  • An increased perception of Effort

Hypnosis can be considered to be phenomenologically similar/same to ‚Äėflow‚Ä̬†

Creating an increased sense of personal identity and involvement.

Hilgard & Banyai, 1976; Banyai, 1991

Highly hypnotisable people tend to also be predisposed for flow like states. 

Flow states and hypnosis are similar as well in that they are both psychological skills

Scientific Research into Hypnosis and it’s effects on Sports Performance

Enhancing sports performance with hypnosis 

Milling & Randazzo, (2016) 

17 studies grouped accordingly: Basketball, Golf, Soccer, Racquet Sports, Endurance & Strength Sports, Precision Sports and other Sports. 

Hypnosis was shown to be effective for improving performance in a variety of sports, with the strongest support for enhancement of basketball, golf, soccer, and badminton skills

‚Äúhypnosis can be a way of engaging in evidence-based practice in sports psychology. Practitioners who work with athletes may wish to consider the potential of hypnosis for enhancing sports performance.‚ÄĚ

Remember to see how far you have come

Brief Hypnotic Intervention Increases Throwing Accuracy.

Sharon Jalene and Gabriele Wulf, (2014)

Task involved throwing a tennis ball overhand at a target. 

‚ÄúThese findings show that hypnosis can have a positive impact on motor learning.‚ÄĚ


Using Hypnosis to Enhance Self-Efficacy in Sport Performers.

Barker, Jones & Greenlees, (2013) 

Self-Efficacy beliefs are one of most influential psychological constructs mediating sports achievement (Feltz et al., 2008; 2000; 1996)

Hypnosis has potential to foster self-efficacy. 

Higher perception of self-efficacy = choosing more challenging goals.

Self-efficacy influences effort exertion, thought patterns and emotional reactions.

‚ÄĚHigh levels of self-efficacy have been documented to be associated with optimal levels of sport performance. One technique, which has the potential to foster increased self-efficacy, is hypnosis.‚Äú

The Effect of a Hypnosis Intervention on Performance and Flow State of an Elite Golfer: A Single Subject Design. 

Pates, J., & Cowen, A. (2013). 

“The qualitative data revealed hypnosis may help golfers self-regulate on the golf course during competition. In the field of applied sports psychology, hypnosis-based interventions are rarely used as a performance enhancing technique. This is surprising because there are a number of controlled studies that indicate hypnosis interventions have a notable performance enhancing effect on different athletic populations. 

Barker and Jones, (2005, 2006, 2008) 

Research conducted by Barker and Jones (2005, 2006, 2008) has highlighted that hypnosis can be used to enhance the performance of footballers, cricketers and martial artists. In addition, other researchers have discovered hypnosis improved the performance of badminton. 

Areas of improvement and research included: Self-modelling, Feedback, Imagery, Self-talk techniques, Vicarious learning, Reduce arousal, Ego strengthening. 

Enhancing Imagery through Hypnosis: A Performance Aid for Athletes.

Dr. Donald R. Liggett (2000), American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 43:2, 149-157. 

This value of imagery in sports is widely acknowledged. The contribution of hypnosis to enhancing athletes’ performance is also recognized, but the value of hypnosis in enhancing imagery has little recognition. The reason for this neglect is explored.¬†

The participants reported that the imagery under hypnosis was more intense for each dimension and more intense for each situation. The findings suggest that hypnosis substantially enhances imagery intensity and effectiveness.

Support and guidance

Self-hypnosis Research 

Eason and Parris (2019) 

Self-hypnosis has been reported to be effective in studies of pain, childbirth, paediatric applications, stress, and anxiety. 

Self-hypnosis is most likely to be effective when taught as an independent self-directed skill and when it involves at least 3 practice sessions before participation in a trial

States imagery in self-hypnosis to be even more effective. 

Perception of Effort 

Morgan, (2002) 

‚ÄúPerception of effort during exercise can be systematically increased or decreased with hypnotic suggestion even though the actual physical workload is maintained at a constant level. Furthermore, alterations in effort-sense are associated with significant changes in metabolic responses and brain activation as measured by SPECT and MRI‚ÄĚ

Active Alert Hypnosis 

Hilgard & Banyai, 1976; Banyai, (1991) 

Active alert means individual can access ‚Äėthe zone‚Äô during sport.¬†

Hypnosis is now considered to be phenomenologically similar/same to ‚Äėflow‚Äô state.

Athletes can perform and talk effectively and have an advance in creativity while in a hypnotic flow-like state, meaning hypnosis can be practiced doing regular daily activities. 

Flow States 

The effects of hypnosis on flow states and golf-putting performance.

John Pates, (2001). Journal of Applied Sport Psychology.

The results indicated that all 5 participants increased both their mean golf-putting performance and their mean flow scores, from baseline to intervention. Additionally, each participant indicated that they had felt the intervention was useful in keeping them relaxed, confident, and focused. Three of the golfers also reported experiencing reduced concerns about performing and more control over their putting stroke

Csikszentmihalyi (1975)

Psychological state described as “flow cannot be forced to happen”.¬†

Although there is a striking similarity between ‚Äėflow‚Äô and hypnotic states?

Control pre-performance psychological states

Catley and Duda (1997) 

Indicated that a golfer’s ability to control pre-performance psychological states is as important as skill level. Their study also revealed that a psychological state described by Csikszentmihalyi (1975) as flow was strongly associated with peak performances in golfers.¬†

Techniques designed to facilitate the flow experience. 

Cohn (1991)

Indicated that improved performances, a lower handicap, and greater enjoyment of the game could be associated with techniques designed to facilitate the flow experience. 

An interesting aspect of flow is that one cannot force it to happen. However, according to Loehr (1994), many top-level athletes have identified their own ideal performance state, and have learned strategies to create and implement it.

Keep a sense of direction

Basketball Jump Shooting Performance

Pates et al (2001)

An investigation into the effects of hypnosis on basketball performance. 

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of hypnosis on set and jump-shooting performance among male collegiate basketball players. The results indicated that all three participants increased their mean jump- and set- shooting performance from baseline to intervention, with all three participants returning to baseline levels of performance post-intervention phase. 

Finally, each participant reported they had felt the intervention had increased sensations they associated with peak performance. These results support the hypothesis that a hypnosis intervention can improve jump- and set-shooting performance and increase feelings and cognitions that are associated with peak performance.

The Effects of Hypnosis on Flow States and Three-Point Shooting

Pates et al (2002)

The results indicated that all five participants increased both their mean basketball three-point shooting performance and their mean flow scores from baseline to intervention.

Additionally, each participant indicated that they had felt the intervention was useful in keeping them confident, relaxed, and calm. These results support the hypothesis that a hypnosis intervention can improve three-point shooting performance in basketball players and increase feelings and cognitions that are associated with flow.

Effects of Hypnosis on Flow States and Cycling Performance

Lindsay, Maynard & Thomas, (2005) 

The efficacy of a hypnotic intervention on flow state and competitive cycling performance was assessed in three elite cyclists. These findings suggest that hypnotic interventions may improve elite competitive cycling performance and increase the feelings and cognitions associated with flow.

Effects of Hypnotic Induction on Muscular Strength in Men with Experience in Resistance Training.

Mazini Filho et al, (Journal of Exercise Physiology, 2018) 

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of Hypnotic Induction (HI) on the absolute strength of men trained in resistance training through the one-repetition maximum (1RM) test, and verify the number of repetitions maximum (NRM) with the 1RM load collected in the test without HI. 

Twelve men were submitted to three tests: (a) 1RM test without HI; (b) 1RM test with HI; and (c) NRM test with HI using the load of the first test. 

The performance in the 1RM test with HI was significantly higher than the performance in this test without HI. 

There was a statistically significant difference between the post-hypnosis NRM test with the same load of the 1RM test without HI when compared to the NRM test without hypnosis intervention. 

This study showed that the Hypnotic Induction can be an important tool in increasing muscle strength in the 1RM test and the NRM test in trained men.