Now, you’ve all seen those magicians who call up audience members to the stage, hypnotize them, and they dance around like a chicken or take off their pants. But if you live in the United Kingdom, you might have no idea what I’m talking about. Because TV stations in the UK are prohibited from broadcasting an entire hypnotic routine, fearing that viewers at home may become hypnotized! In fact, in 1952, the UK passed the Hypnosis Act, which levies up to a 1,000 pound fine on those who practice unregulated hypnosis for entertainment purposes. So… is there legitimacy to hypnosis? Well… what is hypnosis anyway? The Society of Psychological Hypnosis, which is an actual division of the American Psychological Association, defines hypnosis as “A state of consciousness involving focused attention and reduced peripheral awareness characterized by an enhanced capacity for response to suggestion.” What we know as modern day hypnotism originated out of pure animal magnetism.
No, seriously, the term “animal magnetism” was the original name given to the supposedly manipulatable force exuded by all living animals, as posited by Dr. Franz Friedrich Anton Mesmer in the 18th and early 19th century. His efforts at using animal magnetism for healing, which was also called “mesmerism”, which is the same place we get the term “mesmerize” from, was an early form of “hypnosis”. But according to psychologists like Robert A. Baker, hypnosis is simply a learned social behavior, where participants are playing a role and mostly using their imagination. However, a new study out of Stanford University actually lends credibility to the idea that maybe hypnosis isn’t all just self-convinced make-believe. The study looked at 57 subjects, split roughly into those with very low and very high susceptibility to hypnosis. The participants were put into an fMRI machine, which measures which parts of brain fill up with blood, and they found that when subjects of both low and high susceptibility were hypnotized, there was reduced activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and increased activity between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the brain’s salience network. Got it? Great, moving on. What? Oh, okay.
So for those of you who don’t know all the different parts of the brain and what they do and how that whole mess works: Basically, these parts of the brain are directly responsible for focusing attention, controlling movement and emotion, and regulating just how self-conscious you feel. So, the parts of the brain correlated with planning and executing tasks, and the part that causes self-reflection interact less when a person is hypnotized, making them not so self-conscious about jumping up and down like a chicken on stage. So hypnosis is real? Well yeah, in a way. Hypnosis is a state of consciousness similar to meditation, which is totally real.
In fact, despite its bad rap, hypnosis is used in hypnotherapy. Practitioners say that the biggest benefit is that the shift in brain activity, as shown by the Stanford study, helps patients look at their issues in a different perspective, and that by itself is hugely helpful. A meta-analysis of hypnotherapy effectiveness in studies on addiction and medical conditions, as well as anxiety, showed that while untreated patients improved about 27% of the time, hypnotized patients improved 74% of the time. Clearly, somehow hypnosis works. WAKE UP!.
As found on Youtube