Attributions are the perceived causes and reasons that peopleÂ give for an outcome or behaviour. Weiner (1995) states that theÂ main elements of attribution are ability, effort, task difficulty and
luck. Attributions are typically either internal or external. TheseÂ elements and divisions are related to the consequences of motivation,Â cognition and emotion.Â For example, making attributions to stable factors is likely to leadÂ to expectations that similar results will occur again in the future,Â whereas unstable attributions provide less clear-cut informationÂ about expectations. Similarly, attributions to internal factors areÂ thought to heighten emotional feelings whereas external attributionsÂ may lessen emotion.
Subsequently it has been found that the internal/external dimensionÂ will affect feelings of self-esteem and pride whereas feelingsÂ of controllability relate to such feelings as guilt and pity. For
example, successfully quitting smoking, if attributed to planningÂ well for being a non-smoker may result in feelings of pride,Â whereas failure to quit, if attributed to lack of effort (controllable)
may produce feelings of guilt.
A particular element of attribution theory is learned helplessness.Â This is a challenge for the hypnotist. Learned helplessness can beÂ global, contextual or situational, and is a state that describes the
process by which a person has negative experiences and thenÂ generalises them to the point where they simply “know” thatÂ there is no hope for them. Global learned helplessness may manifest
as depression (although depression is not always linked withÂ learned helplessness). Contextual learned helplessness would be,Â for example, the client who is very successful at work, and can
form good working relationships but feels useless at developingÂ personal relationships. An example of a situational learned helplessnessÂ may be the schoolboy who is competent in every subject,
Lewis and Daltroy (1990) have proposed six possible applicationsÂ of attributional principles to health education. These are equallyÂ applicable to the work of the hypnotist, and this list has beenÂ adjusted to use terms applicable to this field:
1. Development of therapeutic relationships: eliciting attributionsÂ can assist in the development of empathy between hypno-psychotherapistÂ and client.
2. Creation of correct attributions: assistance in developingÂ informed judgements about one’s health status may be importantÂ for psychosocial adjustment, particularly where illness is concerned.
3. Alteration of incorrect attributions: attributional changeÂ may be functional, either through misattribution alteration orÂ through changes made in the dimensional structure of the attributions
4. Alteration of the focus of the attribution: sometimes theÂ attributional focus may need to be shifted away from one areaÂ (for example, uncontrollable illness) to another. This may act as aÂ coping mechanism or assist in personal adjustment.
5. Attribution of characteristics of the individual: hypnotistsÂ can use attributional statements in reference to the individualÂ client or patient. These might motivate behaviours if the statements
give certain cues to the individual, such as how good aÂ person they are or how capable they are.
6. Maintenance of perceived personal effectiveness: makingÂ the right attributions will have an influence on perceivedÂ competence and efficacy for the maintenance of their health