Definition: Hypnosis is a state of deep mental relaxation, similar to sleep, in which a person is allegedly more suggestable and allegedly has greater access to memories and emotions. Hypnosis is used by some to attempt to change behaviors either by taking advantage of a person's suggestability or by reveal memories of events which might be causing them problems.
Some people also use hypnosis to access what they believe are "repressed" memories of events which they have been shut out of the conscious memory because they are so distressing or painful. Others have used hypnosis to access memories of past lives which are otherwise hidden to the person. In neither case has it been demonstrated that such memories are even genuine, much less that hypnosis can actually provide information about them.
There are two common beliefs as to why hynosis is supposed to work: the altered state theory and the the occult reservoir theory. According to those who believe in a theory of altered states of consciousness, when a person is hypnotized, they enter some new state of consciousness. According to those who believe the "occult reservoir," hypnosis allows people access to untapped realms of memories which they do not normally have a chance to use.
The facts of what is known about hypnosis are very different. It is a fact that there is a high correlation between being very imaginative and being easily hypnotized - while, on the other hand, those who don't believe the efficacy of hypnotism cannot be hypnotized. Those who are hypnotized are not zombies and they do not recall new memories which had gone untapped, but they are very suggestible and readily "fill in" gaps in their memories based upon what is said to them while hypnotized. Many states do not allow the admission of testimony obtained while under hypnosis because it is so unreliable.
According to the American Bar Association:
People can flat-out lie under hypnosis, and the examiner is no better equipped to detect the hypnotic lie than any other kind. Even more serious, a willing hypnotic subject is more pliable than he normally would be, more anxious to please his questioner. Knowing even a few details of an event, often supplied in early contacts with police, may provide the subject with enough basis to create a highly detailed "memory" of what transpired, whether he was there or not.
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