In my two previous posts on the subject, I presented my conceptualization of the Daytime Parahypnagogia (DPH) hypothesis as well the data on how this altered state of consciousness is experienced. Today’s post presents the circumstances under which DPH is most likely to occur and the interference it has with cognitive functioning. Recall that the sample consisted of 164 clinical psychologists and 267 college students.
Sixty-four percent of the psychologists who acknowledged having experienced the described altered state said that it has occurred during psychotherapy! I was describing my DPH thesis to a colleague who was not a participant in the survey. He said that when he instantaneously recovers from these brief altered states, he has to make sure he responds to the content of what the patient just said and not to the content of the DPH event.
66% of the students and 42% of the psychologists who acknowledged experiencing what appears to be DPH report having such an experience while attending lectures. About half of both groups experience DPH while reading or lying down to rest in the afternoon. About a fifth to a quarter have DPH while watching television. Some participants report DPH as a passenger in a car or sitting inactive in a public place such as a theater. Some people report having had DPH characteristics when sitting and talking to someone.
I had conjectured that DPH is more likely to occur in lowered alertness levels. While the data generally support the assumption, it is not so clear cut. For example 12% of the students and 35% of the psychologists reported experiencing DPH signs when feeling active, vital, alert or wide awake. DPH was most likely to occur when one is awake, but relaxed; responsive, but not fully alert (40% of students, 46% of psychologists).
Does DPH interfere with functioning when it occurs? About a fifth of the psychologists felt that when DPH occurs, it interferes with their ability to maintain full wakefulness in psychotherapy. Similar numbers reported that when it occurs, DPH interferes with their therapeutic effectiveness, responsiveness and interpretation. About a quarter felt that a DPH event interferes with therapeutic listening.
Thirty-eight percent of the college students noted DPH interference with their ability to stay awake in class. About 60% reported negative effects on their ability to maintain attention in class and to do assigned reading.
In conclusion, this phenomenon of momentarily spacing out can interfere with attention be it in a class, while listening to others, while reading, or even while watching television or plays. A minority of the psychologists perceive DPH, when it happens, as interfering with their effectiveness. DPH may occur at any wakefulness level.
Further research could address whether DPH can be reproduced in a laboratory. What would DPH look like using neural imaging such as EEG and f-MRI? Is attention fatigue a factor in producing DPH? How similar or different is DPH from ordinary hypnagogia that occurs when we are drifting into sleep? Would those clinical psychologists who experience DPH be able to reduce its occurrence through more active engagement with their patients?