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Tellegen Absorption Scale

Factors and Content Categories


By any standard, the most frequently studied correlate of hypnotizability is absorption, or "openness to absorbing and self-altering experiences (Tellegen & Atkinson, 1974).  A series of studies  from our laboratory by Martha Glisky and her colleagues offered a close examination of the relationship between absorption, hypnotizability, and a broader trait of openness to experience identified by Costa and McCrae as one of the "Big Five" traits of personality measured by various versions of the NEO Personality Inventory.  The first of these studies (Glisky et al., 1991) confirmed the basic absorption-hypnotizability relation, and showed that absorption was related to those facts of Openness having to do with imaginative involvement (i.e., Fantasy, Aesthetics, and Feelings), but not with those facets having to do with sociopolitical liberalism (i.e., Actions, Ideas, and Values).  The second study (Glisky & Kihlstrom, 1993) showed that hypnotizability was related to Absorption, but not to either Sociopolitical Liberalism or Intellectance (an alternative construal of Openness).  For a review of the early literature on absorption, see Roche & McConkey (1990).

The Absorption Scale is included as one of the scales of Tellegen's Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire, now published by the University of Minnesota Press.  At the request of the Press, I have deleted the items of the scale from this page, so as not to compromise their validity.  Investigators interested in using the Absorption Scale in their research should contact the University of Minnesota Press for permission to use the scale.  

For information, contact the University of Minnesota Press Test Division at testdiv@umn.edu.

Here I show the results of a content analysis (Tellegen, 1982) and a factor analysis (Tellegen, 1992) of the TAS items.  Thanks to Prof. Tellegen for access to these unpublished documents. 

Factor Structure of the TAS



Consciousness Focus
1 Responsiveness to Engaging Stimuli Narrowing External
2 Synesthesia Narrowing External
3 Enhanced Cognition Expansion External
4 Oblivious/Dissociative Involvement Narrowing Internal
5 Vivid Reminiscence Expansion Internal
6 Enhanced Awareness Expansion External

Source: Tellegen (1992).  


Content Analysis of the TAS



1 Is responsive to engaging stimuli.
2 Is responsive to "inductive" stimuli.
3 Often thinks in images.
4 Can summon vivid and suggestive images.
5 Has "crossmodal" experiences (e.g., synesthesia).
6 Can become absorbed in own thoughts and imaginings.
7 Can vividly re-experience the past.
8 Has episodes of expanded (e.g., ESP-like) awareness.
9 Experiences altered states of consciousness.

Source: Tellegen (1982), revising a list of content categories originally published in Tellegen (1981).  


Instructions for Administration

The standard instructions for the scale are taken from Tellegen:

This questionnaire consists of questions about experiences that you may have had in your life. We are interested in how often you have these experiences. It is important, however, that your answers show how often these experiences happen to you when you are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

In the original dichotomous version of the scale, subjects simply respond "True" or "False" to each item, and their score is simply the number of items marked "T".  In order to permit subjects somewhat more latitude in responding, however, we have often used a four- or five-point Likert scale, with the poles marked "Never" and "Always".  More recently, I have come to favor a four-point (0-3) version, which forces subjects off the fence and permits easy conversion to a dichotomous scale.

Note:  It is my practice to label the TAS, and all other scales and questionnaires administered in my laboratory, which a neutral-sounding title, such as "Personal Attitudes and Experiences".  


Scoring the Tellegen Absorption Scale

All the items on the TAS are positively keyed.  

No population norms are available for the scale, but experience with many large college-student samples provides some basis for interpreting scores:

On the dichotomous version, the average scores is about 20, with a standard deviation of about 6 (Glisky et al., 1991, Study 1).  
On the five-point Likert-scale version, the average score is approximately 80, with a standard deviation of approximately 18 (Glisky et al., 1991, Studies 2 and 3) -- figures which comport with the dichotomous version.
On a version using the 0-100 "percentage" scale, similar to that used with the Dissociative Experiences Scale, the average score was about 31, with a standard deviation of about 16 (Angiulo & Kihlstrom, 1991).  



Angiulo, M.J., & Kihlstrom, J.F.  (1991).  Dissociative experiences in a college population.  Unpublished manuscript, University of Arizona.  Available on line at http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~kihlstrm/Angiulo1.htm.

Glisky, M.L., & Kihlstrom, J.F.  (1993).  Hypnotizability and facets of openness.  International Journal of Clinical & Experimental Hypnosis, 41, 112-123.

Glisky, M.L., Tataryn, D.J., Tobias, B.A., Kihlstrom, J.F., & McConkey, K.M.  (1991).  Absorption, openness to experience, and hypnotizability.  Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 60, 263-272.

Roche, S.M., & McConkey, K.M.  (1990).  Absorption: Nature, assessment, and correlates.  Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 59, 91-101.

Tellegen, A.  (1981).  Practicing the two disciplines for relaxation and enlightenment: Comment on Qualls & Sheehan.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 110, 217-226.

Tellegen, A. (1982, October 10).  Content categories: Absorption Items (Revised).  Unpublished manuscript, University of Minnesota

Tellegen, A. (1992, August).  Note on structure and meaning of the MPQ Absorption scale.  Unpublished manuscript, University of Minnesota.

Tellegen, A., & Atkinson, G.  (1974).  Openness to absorbing and self-altering experiences ("absorption"), a trait related to hypnotic susceptibility. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 83, 268-277.


This page last revised 11/06/19.