Highway Hypnosis

white line fever

Highway hypnosis, also popularly known as ‘driving without attention mode’ or ‘white line fever,’ is a mental state in which a person can drive a motor vehicle great distances, responding to external events in the expected manner with no recollection of having consciously done so. In this state the driver’s conscious mind is apparently fully focused elsewhere, with seemingly direct processing of the masses of information needed to drive safely. Highway hypnosis is just one manifestation of a relatively commonplace experience, where the conscious and unconscious minds appear to concentrate on different things.

Building on the theories of American psychologist, Ernest Hilgard (1904 Р2001), that hypnosis is an altered state of awareness, some theorists hold that the consciousness can develop hypnotic dissociation. In the example of highway hypnosis, one stream of consciousness is driving the car while the other stream of consciousness is dealing with other matters. Amnesia can even develop for the dissociated consciousness that drove the automobile. The phenomenon is an example of automaticity in cognitive psychology.

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