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Technology and society

Chhavi Sachdev
Podcaster and Independent Radio Producer/Reporter
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piqer: Chhavi Sachdev
Thursday, 06 December 2018

Mesmerised Or Hypnotised—What's Really Happening?

We often say we lost track of time when we're in front of social media apps, but what happens when we're actually hypnotised? What goes on in the brain when we become suggestible and relaxed enough to pet tarantulas or cluck like a chicken?

This episode of CrowdScience looks at how hypnosis can be used clinically: for instance when someone gets a tooth extracted without anaesthesia (yes, really!) – only soothed by a dentist's kind words, creating imagery with his words, to unfocus the patient from her pain.

In this episode, a guest psychiatrist and a neurologist compare hypnosis to becoming immersed in a book or a movie, where your attention becomes engrossed so completely, you lose track of your reality.

And in this kind of controlled setting, little suggestions can become ultra powerful. The presenter does go to check out exposure therapy, where someone with a phobia is slowly introduced to the very thing they're afraid of – with mixed results. 

In stage hypnotism, there are other factors at play, including roles and a social contract that makes people even more susceptible to performing a certain way. 

The episode also looks at the origins of hypnotism back in the 18th century – it sounds a little like Dr. Mesmer stumbled onto something like a trance state accidentally and exploited it with great drama, definitely a precursor of the stage shows! Now, of course, it is being studied by doctors and neurologists who are curious to understand it, explore why it works better on some people than others, and then expand its applications. 

If you've ever wondered how people are persuaded to give up smoking or think they know a foreign language, this is a fun episode that explains how the brain is really malleable.

Two quick spoilers: It's really up to you; if you're unwilling, you can't be hypnotised. But, if you are willing, pretty much anyone can hypnotise you if they know the process to follow! 

Mesmerised Or Hypnotised—What's Really Happening?
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