De-suggestopedia? Mental Reserve Capacities Antisuggestive barriers Music
History Psychological "Set-up" The three barriers of suggestion  
Lozanov Suggestion Means of suggestion  

What is De-suggestopedia?

It is an approach to education whose primary objective is to tap the extraordinary reserve capacities we all possess but rarely if ever use. This method utilises techniques from many sources of research into how best we can learn. The Bulgarian scientist, Dr. Georgi Lozanov, for example, has demonstrated that through  a carefully “orchestrated” learning environment including most importantly a specially-trained teacher, the learning process can be accelerated by a factor of three to ten times enjoyably. Such results are possible through the proper use of suggestion. The suggestive-desuggestive process allows students to go beyond previously held beliefs and self-limiting concepts concerning the learning process and learn great quantities of material with ease and enjoyment.

Sources, History, Initial Results

The artful use of suggestion as a means of facilitating the learning and communication process is, of course, and has always been, a part of nearly all effective teaching and persuasive communication. Not until the past twenty years, however, has the phenomenon of suggestion begun to be methodically researched and tested as to how it can and does affect learning. At the centre of these developments is the work of Lozanov. For more than 20 years he has been experimenting with accellerative approaches to learning, has founded the Institute of Suggestology in Sofia, Bulgaria and has authored the book: Suggestology and the Outlines or Suggestopedia (Gordon and Breach, New York, 1997).

In his early research Lozanov investigated individual cases of extraordinary learning capacities etc., and theorised that such capacities were learnable and teachable. He experimented with a wide range of techniques drawn from both traditional and esoteric sources, including hypnosis and yoga, and was able to accelerate the learning process quite dramatically.

Well aware that methods directly involving yoga and hypnosis were not generally applicable or acceptable, he continued seeking universally acceptable means to tap the vast mental reserve capacities of the human mind we all have but which are rarely used. Suggestion proved to be the key.

Applications in the public schools have been  impressive: eighteen schools in Bulgaria offered all subjects under Lozano’s supervision, and the results have been that children have learned the same amount of material as in control groups in less than half the time and with more enjoyment and less stress.

Dr.Georgi Lozanov  of the Institute of Suggestology in Sofia, Bulgaria is, together with his colleagues, the originator of these techniques. SUGGESTOLOGY is the study of the power of suggestion which can be verbal, non-verbal, conscious or unconscious.

SUGGESTOPEDIA is the study of these suggestive factors in a learning situation.

We are constantly, surrounded by suggestive influences. If we study them and become aware of them, then we are in a better position to “choose” which ones we want to influence us. Lozanov maintains that a suggestopedic teacher spends most of the time de-suggesting the students, i.e., freeing them from any nonfacilitating influences from their past. From birth on we are influenced by parents, friends, teachers, society, the media, the weather, the food we eat and the political environment in which we live.

Major Concepts and Features

1. Mental Reserve Capacities (MRC)

The central premise is that we all possess considerable mental reserves which we rarely if ever tap under normal circumstances. Among the examples of such capacities are the ability to learn rapidly and recall with ease large quantities or material, solve problems with great rapidity and spontaneous ease, respond to complex stimuli with facility and creativity.  There is general agreement among researchers that the human being uses 5-10% of his/her brain capacity at the most. The primary objective is to tap into the MRC.

2. Psychological “Set-Up”

Our response to every stimuli is very complex, involving many unconscious processes which have become automatic responses. These are largely patterned responses - in many ways peculiar to us as individuals. The responses  tend to be automatic and typical for them - the result of an inner, unconscious disposition or set-up, which is the product of automatized, conditioned responses. Our inner set-up operates when we encounter any situation - entering a school, being confronted with an opportunity - consulting a physician- as examples. Our inner, unconscious set-up is extremely basic and important to our behaviour and to our survival - and it can be extremely limiting, for it can imprison us in unconscious, consistently patterned responses which prevent us from experiencing and exploring other alternatives - which might be far more desirable and beneficial to us. Prevailing social norms, instilled in us by all our social institutions, including family and schools, are the main carriers and enforcers of the beliefs and responses which contribute to the formation of our inner set-up. Genetic and other factors contribute as well. The power of the influence of our unconscious set-up is very great, and any significant lasting change or overcoming of previous limits will necessarily involve a change in our unconscious patterns of response. This is why logical argumentation at the conscious level is often so useless - even when there is conscious agreement. This is why so much of the classroom experience remains an intellectual exercise: words, rhetorical mastery, even brilliance are of little lasting effect if they only engage the conscious levels of the student’s mind. Only when a teacher or a doctor is able to penetrate the set-up, engage it in a way which allows it to be accepting and open to extensions and transformation does the real potential of a student/patient begin to open up.

3. Suggestion

Suggestion is the key which Lozanov found to penetrate through the “set-up” and stimulate the mental reserve capacities. Even more, through suggestion we can facilitate the creation of new, richer patterns of conscious/unconscious responses or new (set-ups): “Suggestion is the direct road to the set-up. It creates and utilises such types of set-ups which would free and activate the reserve capacities of the human being.” (Lozanov: The Key Principles of Suggestopedia”, Journal of SALT, 1976, p.15)

There are two basic kinds of suggestion: direct and indirect. Direct suggestions are directed to conscious processes, i.e., what one says that can and will occur in the learning experience, suggestions which can be made in printed announcements, orally by the teacher, and/or by text materials. Direct suggestion is used sparingly, for it is most vulnerable to resistance from the set-up.

Indirect suggestion is largely unconsciously perceived and is much greater in scope than direct suggestion. It is always present in any communication and involves many levels and degrees of subtlety. Lozanov speaks of it as the second plane of communication and considers it to encompass all those communication factors outside our conscious awareness, such as voice tone, facial expression, body posture and movement, speech tempo, rhythms, accent, etc. Other important indirect suggestive effects result from room arrangement, decor, lighting, noise level, institutional setting - for all these factors are communicative stimuli which result in what Lozanov terms non-specific mental reactivity on the paraconscious level (at the level of the set-up). And they, like the teacher and materials can reinforce the set-up, preserve the status quo, or can serve in the desuggestive-suggestive process. In other words, everything in the communication/learning environment is a stimulus at some level, being processed at some level of mental activity. The more we can do to orchestrate purposefully the unconscious as well as the conscious factors in this environment, the greater the chance to break through or “de-suggest” the conditioned, automatic patterns of our inner set-up and open the access to the great potential of our mental reserves.

4. Anti-Suggestive Barriers

  The artful use of suggestion to stimulate the mental reserve capacities and accelerate the learning process necessitates the skilful handling of the antisuggestive barriers we all necessarily have.

“The first task of suggestology and suggestopedia is to remove people’s prior conditioning to de-suggest, to find the way to escape the social norm and open the way to development of the personality. This is perhaps the greatest problem suggestology is confronted with, since the person must be ‘convinced’ that his potential capacity is far above what he thinks it is. The individual protects himself with psychological barriers, according to Dr. Lozanov, just as the organism protects itself from physiological barriers:

* an anti-suggestive emotional barrier which rejects anything likely to produce a feeling of lack of confidence or insecurity: “This anti-suggestive barrier proceeds from the set-up in every man.”

* an anti-suggestive barrier of man’s rational faculty which through reasoning rejects suggestions it judges unacceptable: ‘This barrier is the conscious critical thinking’. But, very often this barrier is the camouflage of the emotional barrier.

* an ethical barrier, which rejects everything not in harmony with the ethical sense of the personality.

“These anti-suggestive barriers are a filter between the environmental stimuli and the unconscious mental activity. They are inter-related and mutually reinforcing, and a positive suggestive effect can only be accomplished if these barriers are kept in mind. The overcoming of barriers means compliance with them. Otherwise suggestion would be doomed to failure. ”It is clear that the suggestive process is always a combination of suggestion and de-suggestion and is always at an unconscious or slightly conscious level.”

Three barriers to Suggestion

1) Logical-critical

            "That´s not possible"

            "Others may be able to do that, but not me."

2) Affective-emotional

            "I won´t do it. It just makes me feel uneasy. I can´t             explain it really.

            I´d rather not, thank you."

3) Ethical

            "I really think that´s slightly dishonest."

            "I don´t think it´s fair."

5. Means of Suggestion

Suggestive authority

A positively suggestive authority is one of the most effective means which we as teachers / doctors  can use, if we use it sensitively, wisely and purposefully.

The authority we are speaking of here has nothing to do with authoritarianism, traditional “strictness” or “toughness”. Lozanov defines it as “the non-directive prestige which by indirect ways creates an atmosphere of confidence and intuitive desire to follow the set example”. Authority, in its positive, suggestive sense, is communicated through our “global” presence, through all our non-verbal as well as verbal signals. Students can sense when we embody the values and attitudes we “talk about”. And when there is congruency in the many levels of our communication, we become believable, compelling, worthy of respect.

Lozanov notes the parallel between the decisive suggestive power of the first session between physician or therapist and patient, and the first class session. Both patient and student come to their respective experiences with conditioned attitudes and beliefs - and with hopes and expectations. In that first encounter expectation and suggestibility are at their greatest. In the first session the climate is most favourable for suggesting that something new, something secretly or openly hoped for, something extraordinary is possible and probable. When we communicate in a simultaneous, congruent manner that we are confident with the material we are teaching, that we love what we are doing, that we respect the students who have come to learn, that we know they can learn it, and that we take delight in teaching - when we can communicate these things with our voices, facial expressions, posture, movement and words, we will achieve an invaluable rapport with our students, will arouse expectancy and motivation, and will establish a suggestive atmosphere within which the student’s mental reserve capacities can be tapped. (Self-fulfilling prophecy)


In suggestopedia we do not talk about infantilization in the clinical sense of the word, nor of infantility. Infantilization in the process of education is a normal phenomenon connected with authority (prestige). Infantilization in suggestopedia must be understood roughly as memories of the pure and naive state of a child to whom someone is reading, or who is reading on his own. He is absorbing the wonderful world of the fairytales. This world brings him a vast amount of information and the child absorbs it easily and permanently.


Intonation is strongly connected with the rest of the suggestive elements. The intonation in music and speech is one of the basic expressive means, with formidable form-creating influence and potential in many psycho-physiological directions.  “Learning is state of mind dependent”. When varying your voice you “reach” different “states of mind”.

Concert pseudo-passivity (concentrative psychorelaxation)

An important moment in suggestopedia. The artistic organisation of the suggestopedic educational process creates conditions for concert pseudopassivity in the student. In this state the reserve capabilities of the personality are shown most fully. The concert pseudopassivity (concentrative psychorelaxation) overcomes the antisuggestive barriers, creating a condition of trust and infantilization in the student, who in a naturally calm state accompanied by a state of meditation without special autogenic training can absorb and work over a huge quantity of information. In this state both brain hemispheres are activated”. (Creating Wholeness through Art; by Evelina Gateva p.28)

Successful classroom atmosphere

For a successful classroom atmosphere, Lozanov maintains these three elements should be present:


A nurturing, supportive atmosphere in which the student feels free to try out the new information, be inventive with it, make mistakes without being put down, and, in general, enjoy the learning experience.


The material should be presented in a structured fashion, combining the Big Picture, Analysis and Synthesis. Every moment should be a didactic experience even when the learning process is not that apparent.


The classroom should not be cluttered with too many posters and unnecessary objects, otherwise we don’t see them. We go into overwhelm. Good quality pictures should be displayed and changed every few days. Music can be played as the students enter the room, and during the breaks. Plants and flowers add to a pleasant atmosphere. If the chairs are arranged in a U-shape, there is a better communication possible between the teacher and students and among the students themselves.


Music as a suggestive, relaxing medium. Lozanov researched a wide variety of means for presenting material to be learned which would facilitate the mentally relaxed, receptive state of mind he had found to be optimal for learning.

Yoga exercises, breathing techniques, special speech intonations were all tried with varying degrees of success. None of them, however, was found acceptable by nearly all cultural norms and belief systems.

Music proved to be the ideal medium, both for the purpose or creating a mentally relaxed state and for providing a vehicle for carrying the material to be learned into the open, receptive mind.

Music can become a powerful facilitator of holistic full-brain learning. After conducting numerous controlled experiments using a wide variety of music, Lozanov concluded that music of the Classical and Early Romantic periods was most effective for the first presentation of material to be learned. The music of Hayden, Mozart and Beethoven is dramatic, emotionally engaging, and ordered, harmoniously structured. It stimulates, invites alertness, and its harmony and order evoke ease and relaxation. For the second concert presentation of material  Lozanov found that Baroque music was especially suited. The music of  Bach, Händel, Vivaldi, Telemann, Corelli (among others) has a less personal, more rigorously structured quality, providing a background of order and regularity which supports very well the more straight-forward presentation of material during the second concert. 

Means of Suggestion

1. A carefully orchestrated physical environment: an uncrowded room, aesthetically pleasing, well lighted, plants, fresh air, ...

2. The teacher / doctor  thoroughly trained in the art of suggestive communication -

a) with a well-developed sense of authority. (more details below)

b) the ability to evoke a receptive, playful-, child-like state in the students / patients

c) a mastery or double-plane behaviour, especially the ability to use appropriately and purposefully suggestive language, voice intonation, facial and body expression

3. Music:

4. Carefully integrated suggestive written materials.

5. Visual stimuli: posters, pictures, charts, illustrations.

The arts offer us the greatest examples of unified suggestive expression, and we should make every effort to integrate them into the learning environment.