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An eye roll test for hypnotizability

The Eye Roll Sign (ERS) and its relation to innate trance capacity

The Spiegel Eye Roll Test for Hypnotizability

“The ability to look upward on signal while closing the eyelids (Eye Roll Sign) correlates highly (73.9%) with hypnotic trance capacity as measured by the Hypnotic Induction Profile in 2000 consecutive psychotherapy cases. In practical clinical terms this implies that in about five seconds the Eye Roll (ER) sign predicts hypnotizability in three out of four cases. Further, the higher the roll (0–4 scale), the higher is the trance capacity. This offers a quick, subtle, clinical way to ascertain whether or not hypnosis can have a probable role as an adjunct in the various psychotherapeutic strategies.”

Historical Context

In four-thousand years of hypnosis research, we’ve only found one physical characteristic that shows a high correlation to the ability to hypnotic susceptibility.

The Spiegel Eye Roll Test measures this phenomenon.

Dr. Herbert Spiegel, M.D.

In 1972, Dr. Herbert Spiegel, M.D. published “An Eye Roll Test for Hypnotizability” in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, which detailed a method to determine trance capacity using the eyes. This test has been found to be accurate in 73.9% of people.

One Physical Trait

The subject is asked to roll their eyes back, much as if they were looking up through a hole in the hairline. The more the eyes roll up, the more susceptible the person is. The amount of roll is recorded on a scale of 0-4, with 4 on the scale being the most susceptible to hypnosis.

There are many different hypnotic susceptibility tests and scales, including the Stanford test, the Harvard Group Scale and the Kappasinian Suggestibility Assessment, among others, but none of them are a quick, single, physical step like the Spiegel Eye Roll Test For Hypnotic Susceptibility & Hypnotic Induction Profile as described by Dr. Spiegel.

Hypnotic Induction Profile - HIP

Administration of the Hypnotic Induction Profile (HIP) can be a routine part of the initial visit and evaluation. The test begins with the eye-roll sign, a presumptive measure of biological ability to experience dissociation. In the test procedure for eye-roll sign measurement, the patient is told “Hold your head looking straight forward; while holding your head in that position, look upward, toward your eyebrows, now toward the top of your head (up-gaze). While continuing to look upward, close your eyelids slowly (roll).”

The up-gaze and roll are scored on a 0-to-4 scale by observing the amount of sclera visible between the lower eyelid and the lower edge of the cornea. This procedure takes approximately 5 seconds. The eye roll is a part of the hypnotic induction, which is also scored as an initial indicator of the potential for hypnotic experience. Also, in many patients, the eye roll alone can become a spontaneous rapid hypnotic induction in addition to providing initial information that is compared to the more traditional perceptual and motor items that follow.

Table showing eyes rolling upward along with rating numbers

Hypnotic Induction Profile

The client is told to :

1. Hold your head looking straight forward ;
2. While holding your head in that position, look upward toward your eyebrows— now toward the top of your head (UpGaze) ;
3. While continuing to look upward, at the same time close your eyelids slowly (Roll) ;
4. Now, open your eyes and let your eyes come back into focus.

The Up-Gaze and Roll are scored on a scale.

The amount of sclera visible between the lower eyelid and the lower edge of the cornea is the most practical measurement.

Woman rolling her eyes backWoman rolling her eyes backMan rolling his eyes back

If a subject is sitting in my office, facing me, I sometimes find it helpful to place my fingertip on their forehead, right about the hair line, then ask them to look up, through their forehead, at my finger. It’s a super quick and very discreet way to estimate the results of the Spiegel Test on the fly. For standing subjects, I will often stand beside and just behind them to the right, just behind their shoulder, then place my index finger tip on their forehead, and ask them to roll their eyes up to look at it, while keeping their head still. It should be noted that either of these techniques can be combined with “eye fixation” techniques and can be used to induce hypnosis in many people, particularly somnambulists and high-physicals.


As with all theories, there are, of course, dissenting opinions. I have seen this correlation in my practice over the years, which is why I present it here, but there are those who argue the correlation is not as strong as claimed. While there are plenty of articles about the efficacy of the assessment, most of those who have objections to those claims point at a single 1982 paper. If you are interested in researching it further, you should start here: Illusion that the eye-roll sign is related to hypnotizability.