The suggestible brain: posthypnotic effects on value-based decision-making

Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2014 Sep;9(9):1281-8. doi: 10.1093/scan/nst110. Epub 2013 Jul 24.


Hypnosis can affect perception, motor function and memory. However, so far no study using neuroimaging has investigated whether hypnosis can influence reward processing and decision-making. Here, we assessed whether posthypnotic suggestions can diminish the attractiveness of unhealthy food and whether this is more effective than diminishing attractiveness by one's own effort via autosuggestion. In total, 16 participants were hypnotized and 16 others were instructed to associate a color cue (blue or green) with disgust regarding specific snacks (sweet or salty). Afterwards, participants bid for snack items shown on an either blue or green background during functional magnetic resonance imaging measurement. Both hypnosis and autosuggestion successfully devalued snacks. This was indicated by participants' decision-making, their self-report and by decreased blood oxygen level-dependent signal in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), a region known to represent value. Different vmPFC subregions coded for cue and snack type. The cue had significantly stronger effects on vmPFC after hypnosis than after autosuggestion, indicating that hypnosis was more effective in genuinely reducing value. Supporting previous findings, the precuneus was involved in the hypnotic effects by encoding whether a snack was sweet or salty during hypnotic cue presentation. Our results demonstrate that posthypnotic suggestions can influence valuation and decision-making.

Keywords: hypnosis; precuneus; self-control; value-based decision-making; ventromedial prefrontal cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acrosome Reaction
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cues
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypnosis*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Reward*
  • Suggestion*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen