March 11

I lie down and take a look at my watch. 2:50, it says. Good, I’ve got plenty of time. It’s at 3:00 so I don’t have to leave until 3:15. Beat. Oh shoot.

I dash downstairs and grab my bicycle and pedal furiously. I’ve never been to the psychiatric hospital building before, so I get lost and have to double back. Then, when I get there, it’s just a bunch of winding hallways all alike. I can’t find the right room. I’m late and anxious.

‘Oh, hello,’ the experimenter says. ‘Sit down.’ We go over the pleasantries and then we get to business. ‘Roll your eyes up to your eyebrows.’ She counts. ‘Roll your eyes up to the top of your head.’ More counting. ‘Now slowly let your eyelids fall.’ More counting. ‘Now you can unroll your eyes.’ It sounds like she’s reading off her computer.

‘Imagine a balloon is attached to your wrist, pulling it high up into the air.’ My wrist does nothing. ‘High, up into the air,’ she repeats. Nothing. ‘Here, let me help you get started.’ She unsticks my wrist from the chair arm and it lifts high into the air. ‘Now, when you wake up, I will push your arm down and it will bounce back up again. You will find this funny. When I touch your elbow your arm will stop floating.’

She has me roll my eyes back up and open my eyes and wkae up. My arm is still floating. She tries to push it down. It floats back up, slowly. I giggle a little. She pushes it back down, this time touching my elbow. My arm does not go back up.

She makes some notes on a clipboard. ‘Why do you think your arm did that?’ she asks. ‘Um, well, heh, I guess it’s the hypnosis, heh,’ I say, still a little giggly. ‘Good,’ she says, ‘do you remember anything more?’ ‘Um, heh, something about a balloon?’ I say quietly. ‘Good,’ she says, marking that down and moving on.

‘You’re very lucky.’ She says. ‘You’re an 8 on the hypnotizability scale. Is that consistent with what you got in Dr. Zimbardo’s class?’ Yes, I got an 8 there too. ‘Very good. Any questions?’ No. ‘We’re doing a study on how hypnosis affects the brain — we hypnotize people and put them in fMRI machines to look at their brain activity. You seem like an excellent candidate so you’ll probably be receiving an email.’

‘Thanks I say. Sorry again for being late.’ ‘Oh, don’t worry about it.’ Outside is a girl waiting, chatting on her cell phone. The experimenter points me the way out so I don’t get lost again, but I still manage to get lost.

As I exit I wonder if I was realy hypnotized or just pretending to be. I mean, I think I remembered everything even though I sort of pretended not to. And wasn’t I just lifting my arm and laughing because I she wanted me too? It’s not like I did anything special like tolerate pain.

[Uh oh, I hope it’s not like this study I read about on BoingBoing where they hypnotized people and burnt them to see how their brains blocked the pain. I might really get hurt…]

On the way back, I almost get run over by a computer-controlled Toureg. It’s painted to read “VW: Drivers not required.”

posted March 26, 2005 07:28 PM (Education) (3 comments) #


Stanford: Unscripted
Stanford; Home Alone
Stanford: Private Meeting
Stanford: My So-Called Terrorist Life
Stanford: Schoolwork
Stanford: To the Hypnotist
Stanford: Stop Hiring Me
Stanford: Textbooks for Idiots
Stanford: Feats of Memory
Lessons in Capitalism #3: Sycophancy
Stanford: Spring Break


“And wasn’t I just lifting my arm and laughing because I she wanted me too?”

I’ve studied hypnosis, and have tried self-hypnosis as well as with an experienced hypnotist. From what I understand, the example this hypnotist gave (lifting your arm; laughing) was ridiculous. This is because while under hypnosis, nobody is uncontrollably forced to obey a suggestion (it’s only like that in movies). It only makes it easier for a person to get a suggestion through to their subconscious mind. So being “suggested” to lift your arm and then laugh is basically irrelevant to the real uses of hypnosis, for at least two reasons:

  1. It is not the kind of suggestion a person would consciously desire but subconsciously be unable to accept. That’s what hypnosis is good for (quitting smoking, getting over anxieties/fears, etc.). It’s just some silly test that, to most people, would be neither desirable nor undesirable.
  2. Hypnosis is only effective if the subject is willing, and the only reason a person would be “willing” in a test situation like this would be to do what they think is expected from them.

Hypnosis can be very useful in some situations, but I don’t think this experiment proves much about your hypnotizability or the hypnotist’s skills.

posted by The Luminiferous Æther Bunny at March 27, 2005 09:39 PM #

would you like to tell me, how to study the hypnotist. i am very interesting about hypnotist. thank’s for your answers. rscv.

posted by niars at April 2, 2005 12:01 PM #

i had looked in television programs about hypnotist.Its looked long to study it?

posted by niars at April 2, 2005 12:06 PM #

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