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Hypnosis - any credible evidence?

  1. Aug 13, 2013 #1
    I wonder if anyone knew of any credible evidence that exists in hypnosis doing what it is branded to do.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 14, 2013 #2
    What do you think it's branded to do?
  4. Aug 14, 2013 #3


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    There's two major versions of hypnosis. The original definition is that you can turn somebody into a mindless zombie that's open to suggestion and aren't consciously aware or able to resists suggestions of the hypnotizer. This is clearly false and has never been demonstrate under appropriate experimental settings.

    The other view that emerged recently is more of an attempt at apologetics to the original view. It requires a willing participant that can, at any time, resist suggestions of the hypnotizer and is more likened to "assisted meditation." It's really just somebody closing their eyes and letting their imagination be guided by a therapist. There's no conclusive evidence that it's any more helpful than standard therapy. It's often used with the intent of retrieving buried memories but stands just as much chance of artificially creating new memories.

    So overall, no, not that reliable.
  5. Aug 14, 2013 #4
    You make it sound completely vapid. It's not.

    Here we have a study of the mechanism of positive and negative hypnotic hallucination:


    go there and you'll find links to other real neurological studies.

    If you can control what someone remembers, and what they see or don't see, I'd say you have the makings of a powerful tool for controlling them in your hands. This is less direct and more subtle than the stereotype promulgated by Mesmer, but it's not a vapid, dismissible phenomenon at all.
  6. Aug 14, 2013 #5


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    I wouldn't say vapid so much as not unique and/or elusive. Throwing the phrase "real neurological studies" isn't very convincing either, given the nature of the subject. You can do any task and put somebody under imaging and say "something happened". But now show me a control.

    There's essentially two camps when it comes to hypnosis. Advocates that claim it's a new state of consciousness and skeptics that hold that it's not and can be explained in terms of already available cognitive tasks. The most typical criticism is that "the nature of the speciļ¬c hypnotic instruction matters a great deal." (this is actually a quote directly from the conclusions of your paper... do you have access to it? have you read it?)

    This, coupled with the fact that there's no standard for induction make it a wiggly subject:

    Hypnosis and the placebo effect are "so heavily reliant upon the effects of suggestion and belief that it would be hard to imagine how a credible placebo control could ever be devised for a hypnotism study."
    -R Barker Bausell

    This makes both proving and criticizing it somewhat difficult. Psychology Today wrote a more detailed article about it, here's some excerpts:


    You're as likely to find a journal saying that hypnotism doesn't exist as you are to find one saying that God doesn't exist. It's hard to prove a negative. But here we see reasonable criticisms from the practitioners themselves.

    So do things that people call hypnosis work? Sure. Are they actually hypnosis? Only if you define hypnosis such that you are correct :).
  7. Aug 15, 2013 #6
    No, I haven't read the paper I linked to. The abstract alone demonstrates that the scientists studying this phenomenon believe hypnosis can produce both positive and negative hallucinations, which is why I linked to it. You agree it can produce false memories. These things may or may not fall into the category of what the OP thinks hypnosis is branded to do, he hasn't answered that yet, but in light of your dismissive post I thought it important to underline that procedures that are, rightly or wrongly, called "hypnosis" can produce remarkable effects.

    Since the question is, "Can hypnosis do what it's branded to do?", your reporting that there's no special state anyone can prove associated with hypnosis is effectively throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The "baby" being, in this case, that a person's suggestibility can be deliberately manipulated to some surprising extremes. The "bathwater" being the unimportant fact that, in the past, practitioners thought they were inducing and exploiting a special state.

    Mentor Hypnagogue first introduced me to the concept of "alert hypnosis" here, a few years ago. This essentially redefines hypnosis as real, but not requiring a special state. I'm not in the special state camp and don't think it's an important issue.

    You may call that procedure by which one person induces another to see something that isn't there whatever you like. The more important point is that it is a procedure that, apparently, can actually be done. For lack of a better term, I'll continue to call it hypnosis. Derren Brown talks at length about all these issues in his book, "Tricks of the Mind" and comes to the conclusion there is not currently a good replacement term.
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