New evidence for hypnotic susceptibility

I read an interesting article on New Scientist today describing how new research is suggesting that those who are un-hypnotisable may have a more balanced brain (between left and right hemispheres) than those that are highly susceptible!

There is a kind of standard statistic in hypnosis that (whether through suggestion or genuine experience) most hypnotists will agree on:

About 20% of the population is highly susceptible

About 60% of the population can be hypnotised

About 20% of the population cannot be hypnotised

Of course the actual numbers change by 5% or so depending on who you ask and which text book you’re quoting, but there is definitely agreement that some people are highly hypnotisable and some people are simply not worth the hours and hours it would take to create hypnosis making them, to all intents and purposes: un-hypnotisable (one of my early hypnosis subjects took 10 sessions before he was able to exhibit trance phenomena!).

This new research by Peter Naish of the Open University in Milton Keynes suggests that those people who are highly susceptible to hypnosis have a tendency to use the right side of their brains more than their left. The right side of the brain is the side that is typically associated with creativity, imagery and and the left with analysis and logical thinking. If you’re interested in what this might mean in other parts of your life, try a quick Google. I found this article which is very interesting (albeit somewhat student orientated), about how we should learn to study using the right (sorry) correct methods to match our hemisphere weighting…

This would agree with my experience that creative people tend to better at hypnosis than those who are more analytical and logical in the way they think and act. I have learnt that someone who comes to me for help (or while I’m doing street hypnosis) with colourful clothes or hair, an interesting clothing style or generally seem like they are happy to see where the wind takes them that they’re going to be great at hypnosis 🙂

My friend Parkey is an excellent example of someone who struggles with hypnosis because of his “analytical” brain and you can read the highs and lows of his journey to achieve hypnosis on his blog here. There is some good news for analytical people though: Find yourself someone able to do some transcranial magnetic stimulation on your left hemisphere which (temporarily) reduces left hemisphere brain activity. Apparently you’re much more likely to experience hypnosis.

One thing that amuses me about this is that scientists by their very nature, tend to be analytical people and this may explain why hypnosis research is not as frequent as it might be. After all, why research something that you can’t experience? Or at least not in the way that some of the highly susceptible people can…

4 thoughts on “New evidence for hypnotic susceptibility”

  1. Nicely written post Ben.

    I used to believe that but people often alter the way they are, dependant on the context of what they’re doing, i.e. a friend of mine who is a microscope scientist, he studies, makes and repairs the lenses. He is very analytical the majority of the time, however when we’re out he becomes more child like and therefore easier to hypnotise.

    My belief and experience (since my stage gig for the Army in Germany) is that “eveyone” can be hypnotised after hypnotising two “unhypnotisable” (based on 2 previous shows were they couldn’t be “put under”) subjects.

    It’s all about the frame we set and being able to access the “Adaptable Child” to gain compliance and the “Free Child” to gain the performance.

  2. Good post and good article.

    I have to agree with Nick here, from experience working with analytical people and even moreso from experience as myself being a very analytical subject.

    Through much meditation practice I learned how to “shut off” my analytical mind and this is something I have to do if I am going to experience hypnosis. I do it because I desire to go into hypnosis. If I didn’t desire it, it wouldn’t work with *most* hypnotists. I say most, because I believe there are some out there who could hypnotise me outside of my awareness by either overloading my analytical mind or by “shutting it off” through some other means.

  3. Thanks Guys, I’m not disagreeing with you. What I notice from both of your posts is that while un-hypnotisable may not be in your (or mine) dictionaries, you have both written of the difficulty experienced by analytical subjects.

    Much like my subject who needed 10 sessions before he was able to exhibit trance phenomena, John you needed to practice meditating and Nick’s chaps might well have needed to go through the process a couple of times before they met the right teacher… I know that after more than a year of hypnosis practice, Parkey is at last starting to respond to suggestions that he doesn’t even remember being given…

    It seems that some people need to “learn” how to do hypnosis and it can take just a little explanation (pre-talk) to over a year of practice to learn how to do it.

  4. I’m not buying this. Left-brain, and right-brain is far too simplified. I’m left-handed, highly analytical, and pretty well creative, too.

    People who excel in mathematics and sciences use their right-brain for higher level abstract reasoning more so than average minds.

    You may very well be able to inactivate specific regions of the brain on either side to induce a hypnotic state in people, but I seriously doubt it’s always on one hemisphere.

    Variation is simply a reality in nature, and our species is no different. The human brain, while it may follow a statistical average in shape, size, mass, and general brain regions/connections, has quite a bit of variance as well.

    The other thing that I find bizarre, is people who aren’t “hypnotizeable” can become “hypnotizeable” if they … try really hard? Isn’t that like teaching someone to be in the zone for a particular task? Why would someone ever want to have such an experience?

    I’m not “hypnotizeable” because it doesn’t happen to me, and I’m not trying to make it happen. I doubt this has anything to do with my left or right brain. If anything, it may have to do with my wider, and thinner corpus callosum.

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