Don E. Gibbons, Ph.D., NJ Licensed Psychologist #03513
This Blog is published for information and educational purposes only. No warranty, expressed or implied, is furnished with respect to the material contained in this Blog. The reader is urged to consult with his/her physician or a duly licensed mental health professional with respect to the treatment of any medical or psychological condition.


Search This Blog

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Mass Hysteria and the Power of Suggestion

I once was demonstrating hypnosis before an introductory psychology class, and I asked for volunteers to be hypnotized. Two students and their teacher, who was not much older than they were, volunteered, all of whom happened to be female. As I began the induction, the teacher began to giggle, and this set off the other two. 

When the giggling stopped and they had composed themselves, i began the induction once more. This time, the giggling was more intense when it broke out. I stopped, they composed themselves once more, and I began again. When the giggling broke out for the third time, it was so strong that the volunteers were rocking back and forth in their chairs,with laughter. I stopped the demonstration and the volunteers returned to their seats. 

I had seen people "get the giggles" before on rare occasions as I was hypnotizing them individually, and I had always stopped after one or two attempts to continue, believing that it was a form of unconscious resistance. This time, with three volunteers involved, it seemed to me that we were seeing a miniature version of mass hysteria -- a form of psychological contagion which the teacher had communicated to her two students who had volunteered along with her.

Hyperempiria, or suggestion-enhanced experience, isn't just an alert hypnotic induction, as some people still believe. It's any form of experience which is enhanced by suggestion, and which occurs outside of a formal hypnotic induction :-- even becoming a victim of mass hysteria, as depicted in the following trailer from the 2015 motion picture, "The Falling,"  (The full motion picture is available on You Tube; and the director, Carol Morley, has published an excellent article in The Guardian which describes several historidal instances of mass hysteria.)