Stage hypnosis is usually used as a form of entertainment in clubs and
theaters before an audience. Many people believe that stage hypnosis is
a form of mind control and magic, where participants are made to do
things against their will. Even those non-believers are intrigued on how
these hypnotherapists, doctors, and psychologists do this in front of a
large number of people.|
Ever since human history was recorded, stage hypnotists have been present in each civilization. Interest was restored in stage hypnotism in the early part of the last century when the famous hypnotist Ormond McGill wrote his book The Encyclopedia of Genuine Stage Hypnotism. The 1952 Hypnotism Act in the UK was passed to protect the public from exploitative hypnotists.
In the United States in 1994, a panel of experts was assigned by the Home Office to determine and examine any evidence of probable harm to those subjects who volunteer to take part in stage hypnotism.
In 1995, publication of the panel's findings concluded that there was no proof of serious risk to participants in stage hypnosis, and any risk that exists is less significant than those other risks in other activities.
What Accusers Say of Stage Hypnosis
However, there are some who accused stage hypnosis as exploitative and manipulative. Stage hypnotists would usually counter this by claiming that subjects voluntarily joined the show and fully understood on what would happen to them. Critics would call it the gray area, but hypnotists counteract this by saying that the events are already beyond the subject's control.
A Book Called Trilby
Stage hypnosis, according to some people, is purely a performance by the hypnotists and even the subject. For them, audiences are led to believe that the subject is being hypnotized by the hypnotist. This is called the Svengali effect, named after a sinister character in a novel by George Du Maurier called Trilby in 1894. Those who volunteer as subjects are usually extroverts who love to be the center of attention, happy to lose their inhibitions, and are very much willing to go with the show. Some of these are even under the influence of alcoholic refreshments.
The effects of stage hypnosis is said to result from just ordinary social and psychological factors. These factors include audience and peer pressure; social compliance; participant selection; and some amount of physical manipulation, stagecraft, and trickery. Ormond McGill, a famous stage hypnotist, wrote in his book the use of deception in their acts. Private whispers throughout the show are exchanged between the hypnotist and the subject.
The Strategies Used
Three fundamental strategies are usually employed by stage hypnotists. First is participant compliance where volunteers tend to be compliant because of the audience pressure. Next strategy is participant selection where the hypnotist looks for the most extroverted person in the audience. The last strategy is the deception of the audience.
Deception strategies in traditional stage hypnosis can be classified as off-microphone whispers, failure to challenge, and fake hypnosis tricks. In microphone whispers, the hypnotist lowers his or her microphones and whispers secret instructions to the participant. This may involve requests to just play along. In failure to challenge, the hypnotist pretends to challenge subjects to defy a suggestion. A good example of fake hypnosis tricks is the human plank trick.