So these days I tend to champion an evidence based approach to hypnosis and hypnotherapy, you regular readers know that much.
As a result, I find that people who disagree with what I have to say on the podcast on here on the blog start to quote research back to me… And man oh man, you should see some of the research that some people use to back up their own stance on a subject.
So I thought I would offer up today, the kind of method of evaluating research that my own study adheres to and hope it helps to ensure that I get less people telling me that past life regression has proof or binaural beats really work – because here is a study conducted by John the past life regression therapist on two of his friends after a few beers one night and he wrote up the results!
I am kidding about that, and exaggerating in an unfair way to get my own point across… You knew that also though, didn’t you?
When looking at any piece of information, article, research finding or anything that relates to hypnosis or hypnotherapy, why not use this simple ‘PROMPT’ structured approach to critically evaluate that information.
PROMPT, in this context, stands for: Provenance, Relevance, Objectivity, Method, Presentation, and Timeliness.
You’ll no doubt hear Raymond Blanc or a masterchef judge talking about provenance, and it means the same… Examine the provenance of a piece of information. Ask who produced it and where it came from.
Those kinds of questions may provide a useful clue to its reliability. It represents the ‘credentials’ of a piece of information that support its status and perceived value. It is, therefore, very important to be able to identify the author, sponsoring body or source of your information.
Please consider some of these factors about authors:
– Are they acknowledged experts in the subject area?
– Are they respected and reliable sources?
– Are their views controversial?
– Have they been frequently cited by other authors in the field?
None of these points mean that they are more or less reliable necessarily, but will help you become aware of any angle or stance that may be adopted in their own work that you are quoting. It is well worth finding out whether an author is known to have a particular perspective on the topic before you go around quoting them as a neutral source of reliable information, isn’t it?
What’s more, there are many organisations that sponsor research, so you should be asking some more questions about any such organisation:
– What type of organisation is it? Commercial company, voluntary organisation, statutory body, research organisation? A friend of mine keeps quoting research to me about his latest running shoes, but that research was sponsored by the same shoe manufacturer!!
– How well established is the organisation?
– Does the organisation have any vested interests in the subject area being researched?
Then also, if considering provenance of information, you may also want to consider the method of publication:
– Any individual can publish anything on the world wide web or post to a discussion list. This has to be judged on its own merit and with reference to the author’s credentials. I see hypnotherapists arguing on hypnosis forums and in discussion groups, using opinions of well-known trainers as if they are established empirically evidenced facts!
– What do you know of the editor and/or the editorial board and how their editorial policy influences what will be published?
– Is the information peer reviewed? Many electronic journals do not have a peer review process. I have had people quote me articles from the Forttean Times or a UFO journal, that is not peer reviewed and is not necessarily a highly respected journal – this needs to be considered from time to time.
The provenance of information that use in relation to hypnosis and hypnotherapy is not always directly indicative of its quality though. There are theories around that suggest academic work is often valued highly just because it comes from a prestigious research group or is published in a prestigious journal. of course, all hypnosis professionals should judge information on its own merits.
However, provenance can be incredibly useful when weighing up the reliability of information – it is well worth taking the opportunity to check things out.
Relevance is important when looking at the quality of information in the hypnosis and hypnotherapy fields. Relevance is not a property of the information itself, but rather of its relationship to the need you have identified. So many people argue using wholly irrelevant pieces of information to support their stance, you might want to refer to a previous post of mine on logical fallacies to investigate this notion further.
Some hypnosis professionals offer up very high quality pieces of information but they are not relevant to the topic or the question being asked or discussed.
In an ideal world, ‘objective’ or ‘balanced’ information would present all the evidence and all the arguments, and leave you to weigh this up and draw conclusions. I wrote in more depth about this notion a while back, where I challenged whether hypnotherapists were capable of seeing both sides of an argument or debate.
In the real world, however, we all need to recognise that all information is presented from a position of some kind of interest, and although this may not necessarily be intentional, true objectivity may be an unachievable ideal.
This means that the onus is on you, the reader or the presenter of the information, to develop a critical awareness of the positions represented in what you read, and to take account of this when you interpret the information. That is, don’t just use it to verify what you say, but attempt to understand the other side too.
It is also important to recognise that your own belief systems and opinions will influence your ability to be dispassionate and objectively evaluate information. Something which is rare in the hypnosis and hypnotherapy forums I encounter.
In some cases, hypnotists and hypnotherapists may be explicitly expressing a particular viewpoint – this is perfectly valid as long as they are explicit about the perspective they represent. Hidden bias or errors of omission, whether or not it is deliberate, can be misleading.
So look out for opinions; academic articles do often present unsubstantiated theories for debate. Look out for opinion presented as if it were fact. Notice the way hypnosis professionals use language when presenting their theories. Spot language that is either emotionally charged or vague, for example.
When we look into the methodology aspect of PROMPT evaluation, this is not referring to the evaluation of research methods per se, but to the information produced as a result of using particular methods. So if someone is highlighting research as proof of their stance or position, you can examine the usefulness of the research by examining how the research was carried out, for example, and looking at whether the methods were appropriate?
You should always ask questions about sample size and nature, whether research included the use of control groups, and any questionnaire design, as some initial ways to look at methods involved.
Do not necessarily think that simply because a piece of research or literature of some kind has been accepted for publication, it is therefore free from problems and meets a certain standard. There have been cases of fraudulent research that have successfully fooled the research establishment and been published in high profile journals.
The way in which information is presented has a profound effect on the way we receive and perceive it. There are many aspects of presentation, any of which, if badly applied, can create a barrier between the message and the audience.
Be aware that poor presentation and inappropriate or confusing use of language may well hinder your ability to critically evaluate the academic content. Try not to let poor presentation stop you from using what might otherwise be good quality, relevant information.
Finally, we come to timeliness. The date when information was produced or published might be an important aspect of quality regarding the information you use. This is not quite as simple as saying that ‘good’ information has to be up to date; it depends on your information need. Many hypnosis professionals offer up ‘ancient’ laws as ways of developing their arguments when modern science has disproved the laws. Others may quote outmoded or outdated research, yet some research may be old and still be relevant.
You can simply examine timeliness by asking if it is clear when the information was produced? Enquire as to whether the date of the information meets the requirements in the way the information is needed? And of course, consider whether or not the information or source is obsolete? (Has it been superseded?)
So there you have it, some lovely guidelines to consider before you go around arguing against my points made in the field of hypnosis and hypnotherapy by quoting me some research done on 3 cats while sleeping listening to binaural beats who all woke up in a dozy state, obviously hypnotised, as proof that binaural beats work when it comes to inducing hypnosis!!
Have some of themes here resonated with you? Then have a read of these pages:
1. Do you need help or support in a particular area of your life?
Coaching with Adam Eason Or Hypnotherapy with Adam Eason
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3. Are you a hypnotherapist looking to fulfil your ambitions or advance your career?
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Likewise, if you’d like to learn more about self-hypnosis, understand the evidence based principles of it from a scientific perspective and learn how to apply it to many areas of your life while having fun and in a safe environment and have the opportunity to test everything you learn, then come and join me for my one day seminar which does all that and more, have a read here: The Science of Self-Hypnosis Seminar.Alternatively, go grab a copy of my Science of self-hypnosis book.