MAY 05, 2016 7:08 AM PDT

What's up with hypnotism?


Despite the societal reputation that hypnosis is a form of mind-control, scientists describe hypnotism as a state of consciousness involving highly focused attention, minimizing competing thoughts and allowing an enhanced ability to respond to suggestions. It is similar to the state that your brain takes on when you are reading a book or watching a movie and the rest of the world seems to fall away.

Researchers have shown that hypnosis is capable of shutting down our autonomic responses, such as reading words that are right in front of us. The video gives a short quiz which posts the words of colors on the screen, but the color of the font and the name of the color do not correspond. It is surprisingly difficult to say aloud the color of the font, because one's automatic reaction is to read what the word says. However, in a hypnotism study when people were told that they would read the words as gibberish, it was easy for them to automatically state the color that the word was in. A similar situation would happen to you if, for example, the word was written in a language you didn't know.

There is a bell curve of hypnotizability for people, which explains how some people are more susceptible to being hypnotized than others. Although it is certain that some people fake hypnosis when put under, studies with MRIs have shown that your brain actually does respond differently when you are hypnotized compared to when you are mimicking hypnosis.
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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