Abstract The involuntariness which apparently characterizes responses made by susceptible subjects in the hypnotic situation has traditionally been thought to reflect authentically involuntary control. We assessed this and the contending notion that, when the social climate permits, susceptible subjects attempt to cultivate the appearance and to engender the internal sense that their responses are occurring involuntarily. We found that susceptible subjects, under hypnotic as well as nonhypnotic conditions, engaged in cognitive activity which Sarbin (1981, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 364, 220–235; 1984, Psychological Record, 34, 537–549) proposed signifies a self-generated sense of involuntariness. This activity consisted of (1) the active mental construction of hypothetical situations in which suggested responses are involuntary events and (2) the avoidance of mentation in which the responses are construed as strategic enactments. This experience structuring activity occurred when the experimenter legitimized the occurrence of involuntary behavior by suggesting (rather than directly requesting) its occurrence and when the opportunity for self-focused attention was provided. The implications of these findings for special process and social psychological accounts of hypnotic responding are discussed.