Sunday, November 4, 2012

Brainwashed

The Discovery channel has a show on Sunday nights called Curiosity. It's a fascinating show, and I recommend you watch it if you get a chance. Each episode explores a different topic through research and experiments, kind of like a more serious Mythbusters.

The most recent episode was about hypnosis. The researchers and scientists were trying to find out if someone could really be brainwashed into becoming an assassin. They started with more than 100 volunteers. There was a series of personality tests and mental stability assessments along with exercises to determine if the volunteers were susceptible to being hypnotized. Some went under pretty easily, it seemed. Some weren't hypnotized deeply enough to qualify for the experiment. I was surprised by some who played along and pretended to be hypnotized to make the researchers happy or maybe to get on TV. They even went as far as to take their clothes off in a restaurant under "hypnosis." The things people do to get on TV.... Finally, there were some people who weren't hypnotized at all. They either didn't respond during the initial tests or balked at taking their clothes off.

So I started thinking.... How would I respond to hypnosis? I don't know what determines if one person is hypnotized and another person isn't. I don't know if it's a matter of strength or weakness. I imagine it has something to do with trust. Trusting the person doing the hypnosis, and trusting the process itself. Based on this theory, I don't think I would be hypnotized. I don't trust anyone, ever, especially not in some group experiment-type setting. I don't want to wake up in a restaurant in my underwear. I don't even trust those white noise recordings that are supposed to help you sleep; they could have subliminal messages in there. I guess that sounds paranoid.

I would be interested in trying hypnosis, but I'm pretty sure that isn't going to happen (see above). When the hypnotist woke the people up, he told them they would "be refreshed and feel great." I want to be refreshed and feel great, but not in my underwear on TV.

**Spoiler alert** In case you're wondering, only one of their volunteers passed all the qualifications and made it to the final test. He was given instructions to shoot a foreign diplomat (actually a stunt man) after receiving certain triggers. He didn't remember anything about it after he did it. Even though it was one guy in one experiment, it seems that brainwashed assassins could happen. Plausible, as the Mythbusters would say.

--k

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