Ok, that seems like an odd and rather obvious title for today’s blog entry, doesn’t it? I want to discuss something that is typical of an ongoing debate I find myself having with several people time and again without much shifting in stances due to the very nature of the debate.

So, less of the convoluted sentence sand onto todays topic.

I was recently (and a couple of times before that) told that much of the evidence for hypnosis and clinical applications of hypnosis are no use to us because we are actually measuring compliance and expectation and association rather than hypnosis, and hypnosis is virtually impossible to define these days, even the dictionary definition has it very wrong and is massively outdated according to many.

To illustrate a point, I’d like to mention some experiments conducted back in the 1960s by Theodore Barber and colleagues. In 1964 and 1965, Barber showed that simply labelling the situation as hypnosis, greatly enhanced responsiveness to suggestions.

Let me explain a bit further. In both of these experiments that were carried out, the research subjects were randomly assigned to one of two experimental treatments.  One set of subjects were told that they were part of a hypnosis experiment, and those in the other group were told they were control subjects i.e. that they were having nothing in particular done, to measure effectiveness of the placebo within the test process.

Once the research scenario was framed as hypnosis or control group, the remainder of the treatment was carried out identically. Absolutely the same for every single one of both groups. They were then tested immediately to measure how they responded to a series of standardised suggestions from barbers own suggestibility scale (namely, the Barber Suggestibility Scale).

In both of the studies conducted way back in the 60s, those people in the group that were told they were in a hypnosis experiment showed a gain in suggestibility as compared to those who were told they were control subjects.

So if we then ask and discuss the reasons for such an increase, we get a heated debate to ensue.

One reason for subjects responding better when they believe it is a hypnosis experiment, may be because of individuals assumptions about hypnosis. Over the years, people have come to understand that hypnosis enhances suggestibility/responsiveness in one way or another and therefore may respond better to suggestions to meet that expectation they have.

“So does this then mean hypnosis has been measured or expectation and compliance?” As I get asked many times from those who question the evidence and research over the years.

The expectation level is such in these experiments that Barber even suggests the subjects knowing that they are in the hypnosis research setting may not wish to disappoint the hypnotist and be more responsive, which is no measure of hypnosis, argue the research critics. Anyone in a control group may not have such expectations or desire to respond in a way that will not disappoint the hypnotist.

This is a similar issue that crops up time and again when individual present research findings to support their arguments, whose opponents then dismiss whether hypnosis is even being measured here, the subject gets diverted onto notions to do with definition of hypnosis and not the matter at hand.

I have no conclusion in todays blog entry here, I just wanted to highlight the simple debate that I encounter a great deal in terms of research and show that even the researchers have considered these points before.

It is tough when presenting ideas and arguments when others just dismiss or contradict due to potential fallibility of research rather than discussing the findings and how they contribute to the field. So I thought I’d let the brilliant Monty Python guys show you what is really meant by argument! Any excuse to get Python on the blog, eh? I love this clip… I’ll leave you with, as Michael Palin states clearly, a collective series of statements to establish a definite proposition.