Tuesday, June 8, 2010


One particular subject that has always caught my interest has been hypnosis. The American Psychological Association defines hypnosis as the “cooperative interaction in which the participant responds to the suggestion of the hypnotist” (about.com). Most people associate the phrase “hypnosis” with some sort of stage act, but it is used in many different ways. These different uses include: calming the mind, therapy for psychiatrists, recalling crimes, treating illnesses, kicking bad habits, etc.

Hypnosis does have certain problems. Timothy Lawson discusses several of these issues in his book Scientific Perspectives on Pseudoscience and the Paranormal. He lists four problems in particular that should be known before anybody decides to use hypnosis as a mean to recall a certain event. The following conclusions are listed by Lawson in his book (Lawson 176):

1. Hypnosis increases the sheer volume of recall, resulting in both more incorrect and correct information. When the number of responses is statistically controlled, hypnotic recall is no more accurate than nonhypotic recall.

2. Hypnosis produces more recall errors and higher levels of memories for false information.

3. False memories are associated with subjects’ levels of hypnotic suggestibility. However, even relatively non-suggestible participants report false memories.

4. In general, hypnotized individuals are more confident about their recall accuracy than are nonhypnotized individuals, and an association between hypotizability and confidence has been well documented.

Basically, hypnosis does not provide the most accurate memories. Because people see hypnosis as completely legitimate, they often have much more confidence in their stories, even if they provide false memories.

I believe that those who feel hypnosis is an accurate way of recalling memories feel so because many psychologists today use it as a way of seeking hidden problems in a person’s life. Because these authoritative figures see it as a reasonable means of therapy, the public places a lot of trust in it. I believe that if people knew that studies have shown that hypnosis yields just as much false information as it does accurate information, much less faith would be placed in it. However, until the truth is more publicly revealed, I fear many will see it as a completely legitimate means of seeking answers to lost memories.

1 comment:

  1. Hypnosis is such bogus. I took a class called States of Consciousness in which we thoroughly examined this topic and even had a hypnotist come to class to "hypnotize" us. It was clear that is all depends on a person's suggestibility, as well as how pressured they feel to meet the hypnotist's expectations. People dropped out of the exercise one by one because it wasn't really working. I guess it's not all its cracked up to be.