Today, as I was scrolling through my Twitter timeline, I decided to stop and watch a video of individuals becoming hypnotized. They were on stage acting out crazy demands, such as shouting song lyrics or pretending like they were animals. It was certainly entertaining, to say the least. But I wondered, was this all part of an act, or was it actually real? Could people really be embarrassing themselves on television without being aware?
I decided to do some research to find out.
First, I decided to find out what exactly hypnosis was. According to How Stuff Works, hypnosis can be described as a way to enter the subconscious mind through a dreaming state, where the feelings of relaxation and imagination are heightened. So, in other words, hypnosis can be compared to daydreaming, reading, or watching television. In these stages, we are still conscious, we are just paying more attention to the activity that we are doing instead of what is around us. That’s basically what we experience during hypnosis, except we are more focused on the hypnotist rather than our surroundings.
I also found in the previous article that hypnosis occurs in the subconscious mind. Our subconscious mind, according to Brain Tracy, recalls all of our memories in complete clarity. In my psychology class, we learned that the function our subconscious mind is to save and gather information. Furthermore, the Brain Tracy website states that it is emotionally connected to us, so it behaves according to the way we are feeling in any given moment.
So, since hypnosis involves channeling the subconscious mind while we are in a calm, relaxed state, we are more prone to do what a hypnotist tells us to do. However, it is important to note that all the sources I’ve cited thus far agree that hypnotists cannot actually make a person do something he or she fully does not want to do.
Therefore, since there is an obvious correlation between responding to demands and being under the state of hypnosis, it can be assumed that it is certainly plausible that there is some truth behind the practice. On the other hand, since we learned in class that all correlations do not equal causation, we can’t roll out the fact that there could be confounding variables in these observational studies. These confounding variables (such as the fact that individuals could be acting during the state of hypothesis for attention) could influence the results in order to show that individuals responded to the stimulus in a certain way, when they did not.
Furthermore, I think it’s important to not that the experimenter (or in this case, the hypnotizer) is most likely bias. Think about it – if you were hired to perform an act in front of large audiences, wouldn’t you want to make it seem like the results of hypnosis were actually working?
In class, we discussed how detrimental biasses can be when conducting a study. Since it would be hard conduct this type trial that is double-blind and randomly controlled, we can’t look at any of these results as completely accurate. However, it could be beneficial to simply know that there is a correlation between hypnosis and responding to demands (so, if it’s more entertaining for you to believe that the people on stage are actually under a state of hypnosis – it’s not entirely implausible!).
Although hypnosis performances are not entirely proven (I could not find much evidence that actually proves hypnosis works on people), nonetheless, there are some known benefits, according to WebMD, Hypnosis can be known to assist those who are suffering, especially mental health patients.
Through Psychotherapy, negative feelings associated with pain (including PTSD), sleeping disorders, anxiety, depression, stress, phobias, and any addictions can be reduced.
Through suggestion therapy, patients are more likely to stop addictions. When they are in the more relaxed hypnotical state, they are more apt to respond to suggestions.
The other approach, analysis, also uses the relaxed state of mind to dig through a patient’s past. This way, the therapist is able to find what caused a certain traumatic event. Once the event is targeted, the patient and therapist can work together to overcome the problem.
Although hypnotist therapy can be very beneficial in mental health patients, there are several downsides to this practice, according to WebMD. Hypnosis can cause hallucinations, and can cause people to create false scenarios when trying to recall a certain event.
So, overall, maybe everything we see on Twitter isn’t real. But it is interesting to see how and why hypnosis affects us, and the positives and negatives hypnotic therapy can bring.