The Science Behind Hypnosis

MRI of brain

According to scientific research and experimentation, nearly everyone can be hypnotised otherwise we couldn’t learn or advertising wouldn’t work. Even animals can be hypnotised. See here to watch a chicken being hypnotised.

A ground-breaking experiment that emerged in the New York Times which has further validated the success and effectiveness of hypnosis through the application of the “Stroop Effect”. In this test the subject reads aloud the colour of the words but not the text. Try it here:

The task is easy when the words are in a foreign language, but almost impossible in the subjects native language. However, with a post-hypnotic suggestion, subjects were able to do this test effortlessly. This experiment has proved that hypnosis can truly alter the perception and cognitive abilities of an individual, and the results have provided sound biological evidence using technical procedures such as fMRI brain scans and visual tests. The fMRI revealed that the subject perceived the words to be in a foreign language and the brain actually processed them as if they were.

So, what is hypnosis really?

According to psychologists and scientific evidence, hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness. Consciousness can also be altered using meditation, hallucinogenic drugs and psychosis. However, because there is no concrete interpretation of consciousness, it is not very well understood.

However, most psychologists have agreed to term hypnosis as “suggestibility”. This suggestible state is demonstrated in advertisements, religious cults, and the placebo effect.

So, we can say that while hypnosis is not a magical force, it is just the strategic manipulation of attention and linguistics which leads to the alteration of cognitive perceptions, beliefs, behaviours and actions.

Hypnosis can be understood by dividing it into three essential steps:
  • The course of concentration
  • Unconventional language of communication
  • Assessment and testing

The course of concentration serves to determine what the individual is to perceive. While unconventional language serves to distract consciousness and understanding. Assessments include task that demonstrate that the subject has been hypnotised and now lacks control and direction. For instance, the hypnotist can make you believe that you won millions of dollars in the lotto and you can see them react accordingly.

Even though the general belief is that it is hard to make humans act against their will, hypnosis has the ability to make subjects not see objects, perceive different colours, become unaware of pain and forget words.

Even with all the above evidence people will still be sceptical about hypnosis. I hear it all the time before my shows. Then after they have seen my show their opinion is changed because either they got hypnotised or they saw their friend on stage. But as my mentor Justin Tranz says “For those of you that believe no explanation is really necessary. But for those of you who do not believe there is no explanation that I could give you, that would ever be good enough.”