Is hypnosis real?
August 27, 2008 12:17 PM   Subscribe

Help me find reliable research on the validity of hypnosis.

I want to find out what the consensus is in the scientific community regarding hypnosis. I have read some of the skeptics, and there are many article written by people who practice hypnosis. I want real, peer reviewed evidence.

posted by TigerCrane to Science & Nature (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Hypnosis in what sense? Real in that people can be artificially induced into a semi-altered state of consciousness? I think most would agree that it exists in that sense.

Or that hypnosis=mind control? That's probably where most of the dispute is.
posted by jourman2 at 12:48 PM on August 27, 2008

Here's the APA's (American Psychological Association) statement on hypnosis. They are referring to it as a therapeutic technique, not mind control.
posted by jourman2 at 12:57 PM on August 27, 2008

Another definition of hypnosis by a layperson:

You could try the Scopus or Pubmed databases:
posted by zeek321 at 1:04 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

I thought that the Mythbusters episode that tackled hypnosis did a pretty good job explaining what it is and isn't.

Scott Adams also gives it a pretty good treatment in a few entries on his blog.
posted by Citrus at 1:06 PM on August 27, 2008

Response by poster: Let me clarify the question. I'm pretty satisfied that:

1)hypnosis is effective in pain control.
2)Hypnosis is NOT effective in recovering memories.

My question is:

1)Has hypnosis ever been proven effective in the kind of "personal change" applications that it is frequently used for: Habit control, changing personality, curing phobias, etc.
2)Are the "hypnotic phenomenon" (Amnesia, hallucination) actually real, or merely social play-acting.
posted by TigerCrane at 1:18 PM on August 27, 2008

I've found Mike Heap's pages pretty useful.
posted by edd at 4:06 PM on August 27, 2008

This previous question on hypnosis, though specifically for quitting smoking, gives an all-around questionable/negative opinion on the subject.

This one (linked from comments in the other one) also offers some opinions.
posted by iguanapolitico at 5:21 PM on August 27, 2008

There was an interesting set of articles about hypnosis in Scientific American in 2005. Indeed, using Google's site search feature (hypnosis turns up a number of references.
posted by kristi at 5:29 PM on August 27, 2008

I took a class on the therapeutic uses of hypnosis. I can't do much more than help you relax and maybe make your hands feel hot or cold but my professor is very good at it. It definitely can work for habit control (but, of course, you need a good hypnotist who is willing to take the time to tailor the hypnosis to your own issues and your own way of thinking.)
As far as I know, exposure therapy is considered the best approach for curing phobias.
We learned hypnosis can't make you do anything you don't want to do (although it can play with the context so the behavior makes sense to you) Can't imagine it could change personality in any fundamental way.

There is a book called Hypnosis on Trial that gives the status of hypnosis for use in memory retrieval. Hypnosis actually can be very effective in recalling memories. The problem is that anything suggested under hypnosis or made up to please the hypnotist can taken as real memory and later will feel just as real as if it happened. You need an very experienced hypnotist to ask carefully worded, open questions and he/she would need to record the entire session so it can reviewed to see if there is a possiblity that it tainted the memories.
posted by metahawk at 7:11 PM on August 27, 2008

British Psychological Society report on the Nature of Hypnosis
International Journal Of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis

American Journal Of Clinical Hypnosis

Is it "real"? Yes, there is definitely something going on, hypnotism is not just stage magic. What exactly is going on and how it works is not well understood though. Peer reviewed articles, as in any field, do not undertake to survey the entire discipline but rather focus on a very specific issue with tightly controlled circumstances. If you want a general overview you are better to read a good book or article published for the popular press. The Scientific American article linked earlier is particularly informative.
posted by sophist at 9:49 PM on August 27, 2008

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